The Last Night Out: What We Did Before a Pandemic Year

Readers tell us how they spent their final evenings before COVID-19 dominated our lives

As Los Angeles marks a year of pandemic, many of us find ourselves reflecting on the death and hardship our community has suffered–but also the smaller losses and changes. It has been a year now since most of us had a “normal” night out enjoying the city, connecting with friends and loved ones, sharing a meal or a hug. We asked readers to recall their last night out, back before we really knew what the year would bring. Here’s some of what they shared.

“I had a dinner with my closest friends at Bon Temps on March 15th as I was having brain surgery the next day. The GM said it was the last meal he’d be serving until after the pandemic. Little did we know that Bon Temps would close for good after that.” – Howard G., West Hills

“On March 11, my birthday, two of my best friends, my sister, and I went to a wine tasting event in Beverly Hills. It was packed with people, food spread out on a counter, a basket of fried chicken for people to grab! In retrospect it probably wasn’t a great idea, but I am glad we did! I have a picture from that night, and about two months into the lockdown I blew it up and I have it hanging on my wall as reminder of what it was like when we used to be able to go out with friends.” – Lisa M., Westchester

“Against our better judgement, we hugged”

“Seeing Toshi Regan’s folk opera, Parable of the Sower, an adaptation of Octavia Butler’s apocalyptic speculative fiction, at Royce Hall. Unacceptably on the nose. I ran into friends there from many different corners of my social world, activists, writers, college friends and their friends, and we all did a little dance around the most appropriate greeting: an air hug, an elbow bump. I saw a dear friend I hadn’t seen in more than ten years; against our better judgement, we hugged.” – Joshua, Cypress Park

“My family and I went out to Benihana to celebrate my birthday. The restaurant was packed, we waited for an hour to be seated and we sat alongside others. Everything was normal.” – Mariana G., Pomona

“[I attended the] Tarantina show at Club Bahia. Was brought on stage for a lap dance and got my face licked by the dancer. My friend, a true ride-or-die, had a face wipe waiting for me when I got back to the table because of coronavirus! So yeah, my last night out involved getting my face licked by a stranger.” – Lisa, Sherman Oaks

“I moved to L.A. the first week in March 2020. On March 14, I went to Craig’s for dinner with my friend intending to have a very L.A., celeb-spotting experience. It was surreal. Our waiter told us during the meal that they just received word that they would be closing that night, and that we’d be his last table. After, we popped over to Gracias Madre, and we were the only people inside. We had a drink while they closed around us and noted we’d be enjoying the last drinks they’d make for a while. There was an air of uncertainty and sadness.” – Megan R., West Hollywood

“There was an air of uncertainty and sadness.”

“My partner and I went to dinner at Cosa Buona with my brother and then-pregnant sister in law. It was their first time there and, of course, it was delicious. We parted after making plans to have dinner again the following month at a pizza place by them, on the West Side. The next morning, I flew unmasked and without hand sanitizer to NYC. Little did we know that within 48 hours I would be scrambling for a flight home to L.A. worried about the ‘weird cough’ I had. Months later, my sister in law and brother would be delivering their first child into a still locked-down world. Regardless, through it all, we were able to get our Cosa Buona monthly fix of normalcy. Thank goodness for restaurant workers.” – Shannon C., Echo Park

“We went to Philippe’s for a French dip. We couldn’t believe how eerie it was driving down the 5–hardly anyone on the road–probably the last day we would leave the house for a long while.” – John O., Burbank

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