Relief plan launched to ‘serve the servers’
A relief plan to help keep struggling restaurant workers afloat was launched this week with the help of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce.
Companies and members of the public were asked to contribute cash to Serving the Servers to buy grocery gift cards.
The gifts will be distributed to restaurant workers whose livelihoods were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which threw them out of work.
The lifeline came after restaurant owners warned of “dire” prospects in the sector in the wake of news that the Swizzle South Shore restaurant and bar would not reopen after the Covid-19 crisis had passed.
Thomas Olunloyo, the chief executive, of Legal & General Reinsurance, said the island had been served for many years by staff who went “above and beyond” the call of duty.
He added: “Like many industries affected by Covid-19, thousands of restaurant workers are unable to make a living at this time. It's our turn to serve them.
“With ongoing restrictions, many restaurant employees remain out of work and unable to meet their basic needs or feed their families.”
Mr Olunloyo said many had wanted to help because they recognised how hard the pandemic had hit the restaurant sector.
He added: “Serving the Servers provides a way to do so with the support of the Chamber of Commerce.
“We're asking people to consider what they would otherwise be spending on dining out and donating this to help these valuable members of our community.”
Mr Olunloyo said: “Repeat donations over phases one through three of Bermuda's gradual reopening will make the biggest impact.”
Debra Whited, a “Jane of all trades” for Harbourside Holdings, which includes Flanagan's Irish Pub on Front Street and Divots at the Belmont Hills Golf Club in Warwick, hopes the fundraising drive will be a success.
She said: “We wouldn't want anyone to give us something that they can't afford to, or that would put their own in jeopardy, but it's nice and comforting to know that someone's trying to look out for the little men.”
Ms Whited, who has a 15-month-old son, explained that she was used to working up to 50 hours a week but that stopped on about March 23.
The 27-year-old from Pembroke said: “I miss the people, I miss knowing what people want to eat and knowing that they're my Friday regulars — just the personal interaction that we have with these people.
“We're like a family at Flanagan's, so it's hard to not see or be around these people.”
Ms Whited said she and her co-workers had tried to keep their spirits up through group chats and mutual support, but admitted the lockdown had been a major financial struggle.
She added: “We had to wait a little bit for the unemployment benefit, but that's not on anybody, I'm sure the Government was overloaded.
“I think it's more of a worry to know when we might go back to the new normal.”
Restaurant owners can register for the scheme by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the number of full-time employees on staff before the shelter-in-place rules came into force.
They should include the company name, and the phone number and e-mail address of one contact who will be alerted to voucher distribution details.
Kendaree Burgess, the Chamber of Commerce chief executive, said the business organisation was “painfully aware” of the hardship suffered by restaurants and their staff.
Ms Burgess added that “meaningful work” would not return to the sector until phase four of the staged return to near normality — which meant several more weeks of no work for restaurant staff.
She told the public and businesses: “We are pleased to support this worthwhile cause and encourage all persons to make a donation or two if you can.”
• Contributions can be made through the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce website at Bermudachamber.bm/events/details/serving-the-servers-1602.
Donors can also e-mail email@example.com to get bank account information for online transfers.
Serving the Servers can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/servingtheserversbda and on Instagram @servingtheserversbda. Further details are available by e-mail to servingtheserversbda @gmail.com
• Are you an out-of-work restaurant employee? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org