With Colorado’s bars and restaurants closed for at least 30 days, hospitality workers have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. Thousands of cooks, servers, bartenders, and dishwashers are now out of work and wondering how they will pay rent and buy food in the weeks to come. But their ever-resourceful, always-generous industry is stepping up to help, in myriad ways. Read on for four local initiatives intent on feeding workers who’ve been laid off or had their hours significantly reduced—for free:
- On Tuesday and Thursdays as of March 24, there will be 150 free meals available at Zeppelin Station for recently unemployed hospitality workers, thanks to the food hall’s partnership with Friends & Family, a nonprofit that, in normal times, provides educational events for Colorado’s food and beverage industry. Those in need of a meal can text their order to 716-262-9834 the day prior, and pick up from noon to 2 p.m. Each day will feature a new menu made by a different concept at Zeppelin Station, from La Rola to the Budlong Hot Chicken to Vinh Xuong Bakery. If you want to help, too, the initiative is seeking additional corporate and individual sponsors. (Corporate and business sponsors should reach out to Kevin Galaba at firstname.lastname@example.org and Marika Evanger at email@example.com).
- Operation Family Meal gives free prepared meals and mental health services—both crucial right now—to bar, restaurant, and hotel workers who have been negatively affected by COVID-19. The new nonprofit was established by CHOW, a Denver-based wellness group for hospitality workers; Khesed Wellness outpatient mental health services; and a group of partner restaurants, including Avanti Food & Beverage, Hinman’s Bakery, Il Posto, Restaurant Olivia, American Elm, and more. Hospitality workers can pick up meals between 12 and 2 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at participating locations, and donations can be made here to keep the program going.
- Safta is offering 250 to 300 free dinners to industry workers who’ve been laid off or had their hours slashed. Chef/owner Alon Shaya is joining chef Edward Lee and the growing LEE Initiative, a restaurant workers relief program that started in Louisville, Kentucky, which is spreading to cities nationwide. The first-come, first-served Safta meals are available every day via a drive-thru for pick up between 3 and 5 p.m.
- The Colorado Bartenders Guild is helping its own in a big way by launching the Colorado Family Meal program. The organization is seeking sponsorship and donations to help fund the thousands of meals, prepared by Hearth & Dram chefs Adam Vero and Jeff Hickman, that it plans to distribute to out-of-work hospitality and service industry employees over the next eight weeks. Those in need can pick up three meals twice a week from Wynkoop Brewing Company; to request help, visit the Colorado Bartenders Guild Instagram account.