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These L.A. restaurants and bars are launching fundraisers for their staff

Big Bar, staff, bartending, bartenders
Photograph: Courtesy Big Bar

Coronavirus has all but decimated small business, especially when it comes to local restaurants, but we can all chip in to help.

The statewide calls for dine-in and bar closures immediately left thousands without jobs, with more joining these somber figures as the days wear on and more restaurants fold. Some of L.A.’s top bars, cafés, Michelin-starred destinations and neighborhood spots alike are reimagining their menus with takeout and delivery and others are open and feeding the community, but even those that have managed to stay running still have employees who need support. 

There are a number of ways to support local restaurants, including ordering takeout and delivery, purchasing gift cards and buying their merch (which means you can eat well and look great while doing it). If you’d like to directly help these restaurants’ employees in need, some have even set up fundraisers to directly help the cause; if you’re able, you might consider helping out any of the teams below. 

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Zach Pollack’s Italian restaurants have kept Silver Lake and Echo Park well fed for years, and in their time of need, they’re asking for a little help to aid those who’ve made those meals possible. The double fundraiser for both Alimento and Cosa Buona pledges 100 percent of donations will benefit staff (not the restaurants themselves), as most of their employees have been without work since March 16. From the restaurants’ GoFundMe page: “We know it’s a business’s responsibility to pay its people, and we don’t underestimate the ask here. But these are unprecedented times and we’ll do anything to help out our staff. A lot of people will be impacted by this pandemic, and we know restaurants aren’t the only ones struggling. But if you happen to work in an industry less affected by the crisis (we’re looking at you, grocery store owners) and if you’ve loved a meal you’ve had at either of our restaurants, please consider making a donation of any size.”

Some of the staffers at Los Feliz’s top cocktail spot launched a fundraiser to save their colleagues: Big Bar’s award-winning team has been out of work since the pandemic shuttered all bars, and a few of the managers stepped in to launch a GoFundMe that would donate 100 percent of proceeds to their bartenders and barbacks. From the Big Bar fundraiser page: “The coronavirus has and will continue to ravage society and more acutely, hospitality professionals. Some business have had the opportunity to stay open but for us, we will not be. That means a lot of my brothers and sisters will be without a means of income. If you got it, and you’d like to put forth a little goodwill, here’s your venue. Note: not one of our team have asked for it, we want to do the asking in case there are those with means and opportunity."

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Silver Lake’s darling restaurant and market wants to help you help its staff. Botanica’s temporary closure left nearly 50 employees out of work, and as a little extra incentive to donate, Botanica is offering gift cards at 50 percent of whatever amount you contribute to its staff. All of these donations will benefit employees only, and when the restaurant reopens, you’ll be able to use your gift card. Donating from afar? You can even use the gift card to shop at the online market. From Botanica’s GoFundMe page: “The faces of Botanica, those behind the scenes and on the floor, are the essence of who we are. They’re the people paying the ultimate price for the inefficiencies and lack of support in the hospitality industry; their paychecks are gone, and living on unemployment in Los Angeles is next to impossible. We’d love your help to support our beloved family—many of whom have families of their own—by giving anything you can to our staff fund. 100% of the proceeds will be pooled to help pay their bills, rent, groceries, medication and other staples that they are struggling to manage at this time.”

The phenomenal bread outfit that drew weekly lines at Hollywood Farmer’s Market and kept your favorite restaurants well stocked needs a bit of help until the industry is up and running again. Bub and Grandma’s founder Andy Kadin launched a GoFundMe for his employees, hoping to aid 43 workers and recoup their recent loss of wages; at the time of launching the fundraiser, Kadin estimated that Bub and Grandma’s had lost 65% of their restaurant accounts, which the team heavily relies on, and noted that as a wholesale supplier, they’re often not immediately paid for their services—already putting them at a disadvantage, especially when many of their clients have closed. From the Bub and Grandma’s page: “These are the people who for the last five years have been in here at 1:30am working while you sleep so that you can enjoy products from the 140 restaurants we supply and our stand at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. Their difficult lifestyle provides for yours. And they need your help right now. We are aiming for $50,000 to help remove the possibility of anyone losing their homes or not being able to eat during these complicated times. These funds will go to our employees in need for things like rent, groceries, medical supplies, elderly care, child care, etc.”

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One of L.A.’s newest seafood spots was just gaining steam when coronavirus hit. Found Oyster, the creative oyster and wine bar from Ari Kolender, had to shutter temporarily and 13 employees lost work in the process. All proceeds from its GoFundMe, along with its t-shirt sales, will benefit these employees. From Found Oyster’s page: “As a small business in the midst of this pandemic, we are faced with the impossible task of choosing between focusing on re-opening and making sure our staff have enough income to get through what is sure not to be a quick or easy closure. Philosophically, we always try to focus on the bigger picture but with everything going on, that’s no longer viable for our tireless crew.”

Healthful, colorful and chipper café Honey Hi is hoping to garner roughly two weeks of payroll via a new GoFundMe, which can help their staff while they wait to reopen. From the Honey Hi fundraiser: “There are no local or federal plans for providing financial assistance to the millions of restaurant workers who have lost their jobs in the last few weeks—but their bills are due now and they have families to feed. One hundred percent of the funds made from this campaign will go directly to our incredibly hard working and wonderful employees. If everyone who loves Honey Hi gave a dollar or two, we could meet our goal to help protect those in our little family whose life’s work has been to provide hospitality to their community.”

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Chinatown’s warm and welcoming Filipino restaurant, LASA, is asking for support for their staff, and providing incentives for those who can chip in. A donation of at least $100 will net you a LASA shirt and the restaurant’s forthcoming “wine and dine” special, while a donation of $200 or more gets you a ticket to the eventual LASA Pamilya Reopening Party. From LASA’s GoFundMe: “Our staff has grown to dedicate their lives to our place and made this their livelihood. Most of the team have been with us since we’ve opened in 2017. They are the lifeblood and the very reason we were able to persevere each night and day of service. Our wish is not to burden any of you, we all are experiencing a distressing situation. This is an ask. So any donation will be greatly appreciated.”

One of San Francisco’s influential, Michelin-starred chefs needs aid to help workers of her restaurant family, and in L.A., that means the charming M. Georgina. Chef Melissa Perello’s modern-Californian ROW DTLA restaurant has temporarily shuttered completely, and along with her two Bay Area restaurants, the closures leave more than 90 employees out of work. From M. Georgina’s GoFundMe: “We know everyone is in need of support at this crucial time but this is personal to us and our staff. If you can give a little or a lot, please consider contributing to benefit our employees. All proceeds will be split equally among our hourly staff, some of whom do not qualify for unemployment benefits, many of whom do not know where their next paycheck is coming from, all of whom need your help in this moment.”

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One of the city’s mezcal meccas, Madre, has laid off its hourly workers due to coronavirus shutdowns, and is hoping a GoFundMe can help sustain those workers. From the Oaxacan restaurant and bar’s fundraiser: “Our dedicated, hard working, incredible team is our lifeblood, and this is the most heartbreaking moment in Madre’s history. Most of our team have families, mouths to feed, no other source of income, or outside work to provide financial stability… Many of our team may not qualify for unemployment or grants and even if they do, those programs may take weeks to kick in. So, today, we must ask for your help. Help keep your Madre familia afloat, so we can hopefully come back and bring you joy again.”

David Chang’s restaurant empire is one of the most influential in the country, and in Los Angeles, Majordomo employs some of the city’s biggest hospitality talents. The Momofuku Group aims to help L.A.’s team as well as those in New York, Vegas, Toronto and beyond with a GoFundMe to aid employees across Chang’s restaurant family. From the Momofuku Group fundraiser: “We are determined to get back to doing what we love—serving our teams and our communities—as soon as it is safe to do so. We will need many courageous and generous people to help us get there. We have been incredibly fortunate to count on the support of our communities over the past 15 years. And we are turning to our communities now for a different type of support to help the teams who have made Momofuku what it is.”

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As if opening in L.A.’s busy restaurant market wasn’t already hard enough, Sightglass—an enormous combination coffee roastery, café and full-service restaurant—launched just as coronavirus hit our city. The team sprung into action to flip its concept to to-go service for the foreseeable future (and yes, you can still pick up fresh coffee here), but between its San Francisco locations and its new L.A. outpost, Sightglass has had to temporarily lay off 75 of its employees. Until they can rehire them, you can help these dozens of workers make ends meet. From the Sightglass “staff support fund” GoFundMe page: “We care deeply for these people—some who have been dedicated to Sightglass’s pursuit for years. Each one has directly contributed to the company and collectively delivers an unparalleled experience to our patrons. Our priority is to maintain and sustain throughout this time so that we can be there on the other side when this crisis passes. We have had countless people reach out to us to offer their help during this time. Your support and thought mean everything to us right now.”

L.A.’s oldest remaining tiki bar needs help. To carry Tonga Hut’s staff through the pandemic, the beloved bar has set up the Virtual Tip Jar so they can return to serving us all some umbrella-garnished, wild concoctions when we come out the other side of this. From the GoFundMe page: “No donation is too small, and every dollar will go to your amazing bartender, barbacks and security. So until we can get back to normal, until we can serve you up some amazing tropical libations, until we can celebrate together again, please help our team members while their ability to make a living is curtailed.”

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