Words and Picture by Melissa Corrigan.
On the normally loud, boisterous evening of St. Patty’s Day, a small group of service industry veterans stood huddled around the fire pit at local restaurant and bar, Torch Bistro, in the Chelsea district. They wore Chucks and Vans, each sporting the T-shirt of their respective employer, clutched PBR tallboys, and talked quietly while Dropkick Murphys played in the background.
Any other year, this would be a huge tip night for them. But this year, they’re out of work.
As coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has swept across the nation, restaurants have been faced with tremendously difficult decisions. Close or not close? Limit service to take-out/delivery options only? Major consequences hung in the balance…the health and safety of employees and patrons vs. the annihilation of already slim profit margins and their employees’ livelihoods.
Ultimately, most restaurants have closed their dining rooms or closed altogether, and hundreds of service industry workers have been put out of work. Although national and state legislation is being passed at record pace to ensure these affected individuals won’t be evicted or face utility shut-off, these individuals still need to eat and have a basic standard of living for themselves and their families. Since traditional fundraisers are typically held live, that’s simply not an option.
We are, however, living in the new digital age. Bartenders and servers can now accept ‘tips’ via cash apps and PayPal, ensuring they can continue putting food on their tables and maintain their households. A brilliant and currently anonymous employee at the Center for Ethics and Policy in Pittsburgh created a simple Google form for the Pittsburgh Virtual Tip Jar. This individual had the foresight to include simple instructions for replicating the model in any city, which we’ve done for Hampton Roads.
Our Hampton Roads Virtual Tip Jar is now live, and the list of bartenders and servers is growing by the minute. You can find your favorite drink slinger or burger server on the list and send them some financial assistance directly via Venmo or Paypal. While local and national nonprofits are working as fast as possible to set up specific funds and application and distribution processes, those endeavors take time and our service industry friends need cash now.
Below are two links: the first is the direct link to the Hampton Roads Tip Jar. The second is a document with a list of resources, including some national funds and projects, for restaurant employees who have found themselves suddenly under or unemployed.
Many restaurants in Hampton Roads are still offering take-out and delivery options that may keep these businesses afloat through the coming days and weeks, but the vast majority of bartenders and servers find themselves with no income, effective immediately. Please consider looking up your favorite server, or finding a friend on the list, and sending them some direct assistance.
Hampton Roads is a diverse, vibrant, and generally close-knit community, especially those in the service industry. In times like these, all we truly have is each other…and just try to figure out 20% the value of a friendship or a neighbor’s financial stability. Tip now!