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The world is changing rapidly for area bars and restaurants, most of which have been forced to adjust their operations in myriad ways to face the challenges of COVID-19.
Nearly all have cut hours for workers. Many have laid off a high percentage of their work force. Some – including large mult-unit groups like The Bartolotta Restaurants, Hospitality Democracy and The Lowlands Group – have chosen to close their doors completely while trying their best to provide for workers while waiting for government assistance.
Others remain open, offering carry-out and delivery services to muster the minimum income needed to keep their bare-bones operations running. As a result, restaurant and bar workers are experiencing sudden – and devastating – financial challenges. Workers who rely on customer tips to make up the vast majority of their incomes have found themselves in crisis.
Restaurants have rallied, reaching out to governmental officials about their urgent concerns for support. But, in the meantime, they are relying on friends, neighbors and community to offer support.
If you’d like to make a difference, here are some simple things you can do.
- Learn more: Learn more about efforts to support the local restaurant industry and their workers. If you are an industry worker, consider joining the Milwaukee Independent Restaurant Coalition (MIRC).
- Support legislative moves: Support the Independent Restaurant Coalition in its work to establish an Independent Restaurant Stabilization Fund.
- Buy gift cards: Give restaurants operational funds now and enjoy their food when they're back on their feet (many have links on their websites; if not, give them a call).
- Buy a Restaurant Bond: These $25 bonds work like gift certificates, maturing over time (a $25 bond purchased now will be worth $30 in June, $35 in July, or $40 in August). [Purchase here]
- Buy swag: You'll look good repping Milwaukee, and you'll be helping a business out too. [Click here for a list of awesome MKE merch]
- Order carry-out or delivery: This helps restaurants stay afloat and offer income for employees [Click here for our list, which is updated multiple times a day]
- Donate directly: Various funds have been created to support area workers (lists below). Every dollar helps.
Give to Service Industry Funds
- ABV, El Jefe, Cafe Grace hourly employee fund
- Amilinda Pay-it-Forward program
- At Random, Jazz Estate & Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge Employee Fund
- The Bartolotta Restaurants Team Support Fund
- Blackbird Bar: Donate through Venmo (@blackbird-staff). 100% of proceeds will go to support employees
- Boone & Crockett Employee Relief Fund or you can Venmo (@Boone-Milwaukee or Paypal (email@example.com)
- Cactus Club and Employee Relief Fund
- The cheel Fund
- Cloud Red: Donate through Venmo (@Cloud-Red). 100% of proceeds will go to support employees.
- Duke's and Scooters Employee Tip Jar
- Ella's Public House - Delafield
- Emergency Support for Sherman Phoenix
- Fuel Cafe Center Street Staff Relief
- Great Lakes Distillery Bartender Tip Relief Fund
- Goodkind Staff Relief Fund
- Highbury Pub: Donate through Venmo (@Joe-Katz-16). 100% of proceeds will go to support employees.
- High Dive Staff Needs Your Help Fund
- Hooligans Bar Milwaukee Employees Fund
- Hospitality Democracy Employee Relief Fund
- Interval/Pilcrow Coffee: Donate through Venmo (@pilcrowcoffee). 100% of proceeds will go to support employees.
- Landmark Lanes Staff Relief Fund
- Lost Whale Fund
- The Miramar Theatre and Employees Relief Fund
- Mothership: Donate through Venmo (@mship-2301). 100% of proceeds will go to support employees.
- Pabst Theater Group Employee Relief Fund
- Revel Bar Virtual Tip Jar for Staff Relief
- Rogues Gallery & Elwood's Staff Relief Tip Jar
- Save This is It! Fund
- SERVE-TASTE-GIVE (Relief Fund for Milwaukee Restaurants Edition)
- Sipp & Purr Cat Cafe: Sponsor a cat fund (supports the care and keeping of adoptable cats and their cat lounge during the COVID-19 emergency).
- S.O.S. Milwaukee (Save our Spots)
- Stone Creek Tip Your Barista Fund
- Strange Town Business/Employee Relief Fund
- The Tandem Fund
- TipMKE is an online directory of service industry professionals from across the area. You can't tip them directly through the website, but you can find individuals through the user-made directory (along with their mobile payment handles) and use the information to send money directly to someone in need.
- Up & Under Pub Bartenders' Relief Fund
- The Vanguard Staff Relief Fund
- Von Trier Employee Relief Fund
- Voyager Wine Bar Staff Relief Fund
- Who's on Third / Oak Barrel Public House / Cantina Tip Jar
- Help X-Ray Arcade Through The Pandemic Fund
National Relief Funds
- The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation is raising funds, as well as awarding $500 grants to workers displaced during the COVID-19 crisis.
Apply for a grant
- United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) National Charity Foundation
- One Fair Wage Emergency Coronavirus Workers Support Fund
- Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation
I will be adding to this list as additional opportunities arise. If you know of a fund or means for assisting workers, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with details.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.