5 Ways You Can Help Your Favorite Bartenders Right Now

They've been there for you. Now be there for them

A door with a
Bartenders and food service workers are bearing the financial brunt of quarantine protocols. Getty Images

As most states have instituted various Covid-19 containment measures, restaurants and bars have consistently been some of the first businesses to be hit hard. In some states, they’ve been closed entirely, while others have eased liquor laws to allow takeout sales. In areas where service continues, bar and restaurant staff face are seeing half-sized crowds while still facing a risk of infection by the nature of their jobs.

So if you’re a regular at a spot that you’re now having to avoid for social distancing, what can you do to support your favorite bartenders in their time of greatest need?

Here are a few tips on supporting your favorite drink slingers in an era of social isolation:

Tip a bartender when you drink at home

If you are salaried, consider tipping one of your bartender friends directly on Venmo or Cash App as though you were sitting at their bar. On social media, some bartenders are also offering recipe suggestions based on what’s in your pantry in exchange for a small donation. If you’d rather support someone you don’t know directly, consider giving to a randomized bartender directly through serviceindustry.tips or a local equivalent, or join a virtual happy hour like this one.

Support bartenders’ other projects

Many bartenders are artists, creators and entrepreneurs. Support their online shops, buy their music, or commission new works.

Offer your knowledge and non-monetary resources

Navigating governmental websites is challenging even on the best days. If you have experience applying for unemployment benefits, legal knowledge or experience with financial institutions, offer your expertise. Some restaurants are also transitioning to provide free meals for service industry workers and can use donations of money or food.

If you own property and have tenants in the industry, consider giving them a break on rent. Despite many states’ efforts to waive waiting periods for benefits, there may be some delay in payout due to both the volume of claims and mandatory office closures.

Donate to nonprofit organizations that offer relief funds

Funds like the U.S. Bartenders Guild Bartender Emergency Assistance Program provide need-based grants to bartenders, bar servers and barbacks, along with their families. The Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation is raising funds for a Covid-19 Crisis Relief Fund, and CORE supports industry workers with children. Other entities in the bar world, such as Bar Methods, are stepping up to connect brands and individuals who have resources to those who need them most.

Buy gift cards or order a to-go drink (where legal)

Once quarantine is over, bartenders will need jobs. To help support their local businesses and keep them open until then, buy a gift card to use in the future. In places where restaurants are still allowed to offer takeout, buy food and booze as possible, and tip well.

Bonus: Get political

This shutdown has the potential to impact the food world for years to come. Call your representatives both locally and nationally and ask them to support policies that will protect their constituents who have been displaced or financially devastated by the outbreak.

Acknowledgements: I’d like to send a big thanks to Laura Newman of Queen’s Park in Birmingham, Ala.; Mark Schettler of Bar Tonique in New Orleans; Jen Gregory of Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Jackie Summers of Brooklyn for their contributions of advice.


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Clair McLafferty is a veteran craft bartender and author of the books The Classic & Craft Cocktail Recipe Book and Romantic Cocktails.
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