By Carol Tannenhauser
Restaurant owners are laying off employees in droves now that bars and restaurants are closed to sit-down drinking and dining. Takeout and deliveries continue in some cases, but what happens to the in-house staff, the servers, cooks, bussers, bartenders, dishwashers, porters and other low-wage workers who must ride out the pandemic without paychecks? How will they cover the rent and feed their families? Some restaurant owners are stepping up to help.
Danny Meyer, founder of the Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), which owns more than 20 restaurants in the city, including Shake Shake, on Columbus and 77th, and the popular new cafe, Daily Provisions, on 78th and Amsterdam, announced that he is ”forgoing all of his compensation and donating it to a relief fund for all USHG employees,” according to Eater. ”Any revenue from purchases of USHG gift cards now through March 24 will also be donated to the relief fund.” In addition, Meyers will pay for former employees health insurance through mid April, the NY Post reported. And all are urged to reapply for work when the restaurants reopen.
Until then, other owners are trying to put cash in their hands by starting GoFundMe fundraising drives for laid-off employees. Partners Danny Abrams and Cindy Smith, who own The Mermaid Inn, on 87th Street and Amsterdam, and Pizzeria Sirenetta, right next door, as well as two places downtown, had, as of this writing, raised over $18,000 of their $100,000 goal in just one day. They had first carefully checked out how GoFundMe works.
“Our research into the acceptance and distribution of the GoFundMe project funds for our valued Mermaid Inn company employees has shown us that the funds would be distributed into one of our Mermaid Inn bank accounts,” Smith explained. “Upon completion of the fundraising we would do an equitable distribution to each of our employees. 100% of the funds would go to employees with full disclosure available to anyone interested in the distribution.”
Here is the link for the Mermaid Inn employees GoFundMe account.
Carmen Ortiz, General Manager of Il Violino, on Columbus Avenue, between 68th and 69th Streets, sent in the link to that restaurant’s GoFundMe account. “Closing our doors was the most difficult decisions we’ve had to make during this COVID-19 crisis,” she wrote. “Laying off 25+ employees was absolutely heartbreaking. Our Il Violino family is left without any income and the uncertainty of when they will be employed again. Unemployment benefits are very minimal. Please help us support them with disaster relief while we are closed. 100% of donations will be going to the entire hard working staff; servers, dishwashers, cooks, bartenders, the whole crew. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Here is the Il Violino GoFundMe link.
The Restaurant Group, owners of Harvest Kitchen, AG Kitchen, Good Enough to Eat, and Brad’s Burgers, has also set up a GoFundMe for employees, and are doing to-go orders.
“We are now selling gift certificates that may be purchased for use now or at a later date. The full bar is open for takeout and delivery, including an all day happy hour. We have also reopened, AG Kitchen, the beloved Latin American restaurant.
It is better for us if you call the restaurants directly, rather than ordering through an app, as it saves you money, and helps us avoid charges of up to 50%. Anyone interested in placing an order or purchasing a gift certificate can simply call Good Enough to Eat (212) 496-0163, Brad’s Burgers (212) 787-3473, or Harvest Kitchen & AG Kitchen (646) 870-0810.”
Finally, Piccolo Cafe (313 Amsterdam) and Lucciolo (621 Amsterdam) made the following plea: “We moved from Italy to NYC in 2009 following an idea and all our dreams. We started selling pasta, panini, espresso and cappuccino on the street to the point that we were able to open 5 locations and grow a great team made of amazing people and dreamers…now it seems our dreams and family is reaching an end. I know we can win this, please help us, please help all our workers and team! LOVE YOU ALL! See you soon back on our feet!”
Here is the link for the Piccolo and Lucciolo GoFundMe.
We’ll keep posting if more come in. And don’t forget about the gift certificate idea for all of your favorite spots. Call or email them for information.