Food

How to Help Struggling DC-Area Restaurant and Bar Workers Right Now

Give a virtual "tip" to your favorite bartender or donate to a meal and supply fund

Workers at Donburi prepare rice bowls amid the coronavirus crisis. Photograph by Evy Mages
Coronavirus 2020

About Coronavirus 2020

Washingtonian is keeping you up to date on the coronavirus around DC.

As restaurant and bar workers wait to see what kind of government assistance they might be able to receive, other groups are stepping up to offer at least temporary relief to those who’ve lost jobs and had hours slashed. Here are a few ways to help:

Hook Hall Helps

Park View bar Hook Hall has transformed into a hospitality industry assistance center providing restaurant and bar workers with free meals and emergency supply kits containing everything from toilet paper to canned soup. They’ve 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. I the first few days, the fund had raised more than $40,000 but is still seeking more.

“The more that people can donate to that fund, the better,” says Hook Hall owner Anna Valero. “It will really help us to get the best supplies most efficiently.”

Several businesses are also chipping in to donate food, supplies, and other resources. Restaurants—from BBQ Bus to Charlie Palmer—are giving away meals or ingredients that might otherwise get thrown away. Occasions Caterers and Revolution Events have volunteered trucks to transport the food. And Ryan Gordon, who owns Queen Vic and Granville Moore’s, is coordinating all the supplies coming in to figure out what can be turned into meals and what can be given away. Any workers who can’t make it to Hook Hall can email neighbor@hookhallhelps.com. Volunteer drivers are helping make some deliveries.

Virtual Tip Jar

Reproductive rights advocate and organizer Ana Owens and her girlfriend Katie Gentsch, a bartender at Franklin Hall and King Street Oyster Bar, have setup a “virtual tip jar” so that people can directly Venmo or PayPal bartenders and servers at their favorite establishments. A public spreadsheet lists the names of workers, where they are (or were) employed, and how to send them some extra cash. On the right, you can also see who doesn’t have health insurance (a lot of them). Hospitality workers who want to be added just need to fill out this simple questionnaire. The list already contains more than 2,000 names.

Chef Edward Lee’s Restaurant Workers Relief Program

Chef Edward Lee and his partners at Knead Hospitality have transformed their Penn Quarter restaurant Succotash (915 F St., NW) into a relief center to help restaurant workers who’ve been laid off or had their hours and pay slashed. Daily from 5 to 8 PM, they’re offering free to-go meals, fresh produce, and other supplies such as diapers, aspirin, and canned foods. Around 250 meals will be available every evening (with a limit of two per person, except in emergency situations). Don’t forget an ID and proof of recent restaurant employment (like a paystub). Monetary donations are being accepted at leeinitiative.org. If you want to donate supplies, email Christina Perdomo at christina@kneadhd.com.

One Fair Wage Emergency Cash Relief Fund

One Fair Wage—a group that advocates to eliminate the tipped minimum wage—is raising money to help give extra cash to restaurant workers, delivery drivers, and other hospitality employees in need of financial assistance. The campaign aims to give workers each $213—a nod to the $2.13 federal sub-minimum wage (meaning the amount tipped employees earn before gratuities are factored in). Anyone who needs assistance can fill out this form. One Fair Wage will follow up with a call within 7 to 10 days to confirm the information. They’ll prioritize funds for service workers who’ve already been involved with the “one fair wage” cause. You can donate here.

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Want to support your favorite restaurants directly? Buy a gift card that helps keep them in business now and that you can still benefit from later. The Adams Morgan BID sent out an email calling gift cards “restaurant bonds”—”similar to ‘war bonds’ during WWI and II.” Find lists of businesses offering gift cards here and here.

Order takeout or delivery

From fine-dining to fast casual, a lot of restaurants are offering carryout in the hopes of staying afloat to continue paying employees (or what employees they have left). Meanwhile, delivery services are now emphasizing “contact-free” drop-offs to keep everyone safe. To help you sort through the many new to-go options, we’ve rounded up some of our top picks here. Find a more extensive list of options here

Surely we could all use a socially distant drink right now as well. So here’s one piece of good news: DC government has rolled out new rules that allow beer, wine, and spirits with food deliveries. It’s no secret that restaurants make a big chunk of their profits from alcohol sales, so the change could help give them at least some boost. Here are some of the places where you can get great alcoholic options to-go

Stay tuned as we continue to update this story. Know of other efforts to help? Email jsidman@washingtonian.com.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.