View from the Bar: How to Help Employees Weather the COVID-19 Storm

This is a tough time for everyone. Many of us have had to terminate our employees because we’ve been forced to close.

While this is a business decision, it’s heartbreaking for those of us who have longtime employees and developed deep, meaningful relationships with our team members. 

As few bars, restaurants or nightclubs can give bonuses to their staff, some are organizing on the GoFundMe platform to provide financial relief to employees. Others are promoting their individual staff members on social media with links to that person’s Venmo or another cash app.

If you’re doing a crowdfund, some owners wonder what’s the fair way to split the donations: Should part-time workers be included? Should long-term employees be paid out more?

As with all things, you can only know how to do the split based on what works at your venue. Rest assured, everyone needs your help equally at your staff. Do you really want to rank who matters most to your bar or restaurant now?

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Also, as was discussed during the “COVID-19 Planning: 90 Ways to Survive the Next 90 Days, Part II” webinar, the best (and legally fair) way forward may be letting your staff and/or head bartender decide how the money raised gets divided.

Thankfully, showing us that we are not in this alone, there are also altruistic efforts both large and grassroots springing up everyday. America is thriving ground for entrepreneurs and dreamers, and we apply the same spirit to helping others.

Community leaders in several cities and states are responding in their own way and for their own communities. Many cities have created tip jars in various formats that allow customers to find their favorite bar or restaurant and tip their employees.

If you don’t see your city on here, add them. If your city doesn’t have one, perhaps get with your neighbors and get one going. You can also direct your staff to these funds.

The United States Bartender’s Guild (USBG) is a non-profit organization of bartenders and other hospitality professionals uniting the hospitality community to advance professional bartending. The USBG created a reference page for every state that you can share with your employees.

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The USBG and others also have funds to help your employees, and the largest brands are stepping forward. Tito’s is donating $2 million to the USBG Bartender Emergency Assistance Fund and is also converting their distillery to produce hand sanitizer.

Diageo has donated $1 million, Jameson has donated $500,00, and there are many more that have stepped up to support the industry. Your staff can find an application for aid here.

Children of Restaurant Employees (CORE) is a well-established foundation supporting our industry. However, it’s for workers who have children and their children. Right now, they’re focused on helping people in the industry whose children have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or who have been diagnosed with the virus themselves.

Another relief fund is Southern Smoke, which provides grants to industry workers as well as small businesses affected by COVID-19. As with the USBG Emergency Assistance Fund, applicants need to demonstrate with copies of recent paychecks that they work in the industry.

Each of these funds are receiving unprecedented numbers of applications, which means it will take a bit longer for them to get back to applicants. Make sure you and your employees are in the mix.

Read this: How to Add Gift Cards to Your Bar or Restaurant Today

Don’t let the challenge of the crisis overwhelm you or your team. We need each other more than ever before and now is the time to take help if you need it or give if you can.