DC government is effectively shutting down the city’s dining and drinking scene with new restrictions that ban bar seating, require six feet between tables, and shutter nightclubs altogether. As businesses pivot to takeout and delivery, or close altogether, many of the thousands of workers they employ are no doubt going to be suffering. In response, Park View’s Hook Hall is transforming into a hospitality industry assistance center with free meals, emergency supply kits, and other support. They’ve also partnered with the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington to create a coronavirus worker relief fund that will aid those efforts. You can donate to it here.
“Everyone saw what was happening with closures and venues going dark,” says Hook Hall founder Anna Valero. “The people getting hit the hardest and fastest are the hospitality workers.”
And while much of Washington was busy stockpiling toilet paper and pasta sauce, the region’s restaurant and bar staffers were busy at work. “We were hearing from our crew that they couldn’t get toilet paper and that they were down to two rolls and trying to figure out what to do,” Valero says. “The hospitality industry is one where we all wake up every day to serve others and suddenly there was this need where our folks needed to be served.”
Hook Hall’s distributors, however, could still get toilet paper and other supplies. (Hand sanitizer, though, is still in short supply.) And so the bar is preparing hundreds of care packages containing coffee/tea, canned soup, cereal, granola bars, toothpaste, chapstick, feminine hygiene products, and much more (including, yes, toilet paper).
The one supply they’ve had trouble getting: bags. As of right now, people should bring their own bags to fill up on provisions. Anyone who can’t make it to the bar can email firstname.lastname@example.org. A team of volunteers is making deliveries.
As of now, money from the coronavirus worker relief fund will go toward these care kits and free hot meals—not lost wages. Valero says she’s hoping the government will step up with unemployment benefits: “We’re trying to think—how do we not duplicate efforts?” How the funds are spent, though, will change to meet demand. “We know that this is a very evolving crisis,” Valero says. “As we go through the week here, I think we’re going to see what the evolving needs are most and utilize those funds to meet the highest need most efficiently.”
Hook Hall was also hoping to be a hub for family meals, yoga and meditation, and professional development classes. The massive space was set to reduce capacity from 1,300 to 250 to give people plenty of space for “social distancing.” But with DC’s latest restrictions announced Sunday afternoon, the venue is waiting to see how things unfold. If they can’t act as a (well-spaced) gathering place, they’ll still dole out food and care kits from a walk-up window.
“When I opened, it was with the goal of being a space for the community,” Valero says. “And now at a time when the community needs us most, I don’t want to close my doors.”