With Coronavirus forcing thousands of bartenders out of work, the distilled spirits industry has stepped up in a big way, donating millions to bartender relief funds.
Connecticut, New York and New Jersey have ordered the shutdown of bars and restaurants. The rest of the country has followed, putting more hospitality workers out of jobs. Seeing these out-of-work bartender numbers grow, Brown-Forman announced late last month a donation of $1-million to fund charities supporting impacted bartenders.
“In this unprecedented season of bar and restaurant closures around the world, those who have supported Brown-Forman behind the bar for many years have suddenly found themselves without income and without a clear path to when that income might return,” Lawson Whiting, Chief Executive Officer of Brown-Forman Corporation told me. “We want to show the hospitality community that we care about their well-being and understand how stressful this time is for them and their families. Brown-Forman, and the distilling community, is helping them weather the storm so that the hospitality industry we all love, led by these bartenders and restaurant workers, will come back stronger.”
Right now, in the states with restaurants still open, their fates are in the hands of governors, many of whom are chastising their constituents for doing what they normally do—go out in public. When he announced the restaurant closure last month, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said the “prohibition” was to slow the spread of the virus.
“We have never faced anything like this ever before,” said Governor Hogan in a statement. “This is going to be much harder, take much longer, and be much worse than almost anyone is currently understanding. Unfortunately, far too many people have chosen to continue crowding bars and restaurants. These people are willingly putting the health and safety of others in grave danger. Decision makers at the federal, state, and local level are going to have to take drastic actions. Right now, that may seem scary and may sound extreme. These actions will be terribly disruptive. But they are also absolutely necessary to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.”
While this sentiment is shared by many, there is an unfortunate truth of this virus. It’s killing the livelihoods of hospitality workers. Especially bartenders who count on the tip structure of this profession to earn a living.
That’s led to a rush of drinks companies donating to the likes of the United States Bartenders’ Guild Relief fund. Heading that list is Diageo that donated $1.2 million to United Kingdom bartenders, while also offering free virtual training courses. Molson Coors donated $1 million to the USBG Fund, and Jameson also donated $500,000 to the USBG fund. New Amsterdam vodka created a T-shirt with proceeds benefiting bartenders. Patron donated $1-million to help restaurant workers. Sazerac/Fireball created a GoFundMe page and will match the donations of the “tip jar” up to $400,000. Tito’s is donating $2 million to various organizations helping hospitality workers. Spanish drinks company Zamora announced it’s giving $400,000 to Caritas, the Red Cross and the Food Bank Foundation.
Brown-Forman is giving $1 million to various efforts to help hospitality workers. Beam, Suntory and Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits will donate a total of $1 million to the USBG Emergency Assistance Program and the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation.
Even smaller distillers are raising money for impacted bartenders. Kentucky Peerless Distillery is actively donating a portion of its popular single barrel offering to the USBG fund. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we know there are brighter days ahead,” says Corky Taylor, founder and CEO of Kentucky Peerless. “The emergency funds provide a lifeline in a time of uncertainty. It’s inspiring to see so many in our industry step up to assist. Our industry is a tight knit community that is truly compassionate.”