The Troubling Reason This Diner Ended Late-Night Service

The COVID-19 pandemic has pummeled America in myriad ways. It singlehandedly reduced American life expectancy by more than a year (via a 2021 research paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA). It's vastly diminished our society's sense of safety and security (via Allianz). It's gutted the American service industry, and it's completely upended the supply chain. Less obvious, but growing more so every day, is the fact that over the course of the pandemic, it would appear that we, as a nation, have been growing increasingly rude — not to mention, entitled, impatient, and unkind to our fellow humans. Can you honestly say you haven't noticed?

As the pandemic has worn on, it appears that interpersonal interactions have grown increasingly "fraught," as Time magazine observes. "The combination of a contagious, life-threatening disease and a series of unprecedented, life-altering changes in the rules of human engagement have left people anxious, confused," the outlet reported, and in many cases, "deeply resentful." It is as if we, as a nation, haven't merely abandoned all pretenses of decorum, but we've also regressed into a sort of second toddlerhood — where no issue is too small to justify a temper tantrum, but since we're adults in a country where guns are constitutionally permissible, it's entirely possible gunfire could result.

And that brings us to the troubling reason some late-night eating establishments, such as Johnson City, Tennessee's Mid City Diner, have felt compelled to end their late-night service.

Rudeness in restaurants is rising to a level of violence

The night of October 2 was not the first time that Mid City Grill co-owner Dave Garnett witnessed rude or unruly customers during the diner's late-night shift (via Johnson City Press). But in the past, it was more about "people getting drunk and acting like idiots," but "you never really had the escalations or guns." Over the course of the pandemic, however, that's been changing for the worse. Customers have been increasingly aggressive toward the diner's employees, as well as acting rudely and with a "complete disregard" for staff and property, in general — even dining-and-dashing to the tune of up to $500 per week in diner losses (via WJHL).

Then, on the night of October 2, there were two separate incidents involving customers pulling guns. This troubling development was, apparently, the last straw. Effective immediately, the diner that had once been known and loved by the community for serving until 4 a.m., would now limit its hours of operation to 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with a late-night menu available only on Friday and Saturday nights.

"In general, the vibe of the downtown area late at night seems to have changed," Garnett told Johnson City Press, referring to the time since the diner reopened after the initial pandemic-related lockdowns of 2020. Now "there are shootings," he said. "There's fights galore." And it seems like Garnett's instincts were onto something. On October 15, there was a fatal shooting incident at another late-night Johnson City establishment.