Campaign Aims to Help WeHo’s Hospitality Workers, Hit Hard by COVID-19 Shutdowns

The closing of “non-essential” businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic has left hundreds of bar and restaurant employees in West Hollywood without a paycheck.

And that has inspired efforts to raise money to help those people survive. The latest is the “WeHo’s Nights In” campaign launched on Friday by Travis Garcia and Kevin Spencer.

“Our goal is simple: to help the Weho nightlife workers with an immediate need for food, medicine, and other basic essentials via $50 eGift cards (social distancing),” Garcia said in an email to WEHOville.

Garcia said the initial goal was to raise $10,000 by next Sunday, April 19. But as of this Sunday the campaign already has raised $8,734, with donors including Nick Tocco and Mike Manning, and CAA’s Kevin Huvane giving $1,000 each.  Donations can be made by going online here. For larger tax-deductible donations visit: https://alliancehh.salsalabs.org/wehosnightin

The non-profit Alliance for Housing and Healing will be managing the distribution of the donations. Nightlife workers looking for assistance can apply beginning next week.

“This pandemic has brought the nightlife community to a standstill and it looks like we’re in it for the long-haul,” says WeHo’s Nights In’s website. “The bartender who pours that cold drink after a stressful day. The DJ that plays your favorite song. The barbacks picking up those empty glasses. The behind the scenes bar staff that you may not even have noticed. C’mon WeHo, LA, or wherever you’re from! Let’s step up and take care of our own!”

-“I’ve personally been laid off a few times in my life and I know how stressful it can be,” Garcia said. “I also know how long it can take to file for unemployment and get your first check, which is much smaller than your usual checks. Luckily, for now, I have my job and am financially secure, so I felt a duty to help out my community because if we don’t help each other now we’ll all feel the impact later. Hopefully, this campaign inspires others to do the same because it’s going to take more than just a few people and is going to take all of us.”

Another campaign to help nightlife and hospitality industry workers was launched in West Hollywood on March 24 by Employees Only, the restaurant and bar at 7953 Santa Monica Blvd. that is famous for its cocktails. It began offering free meals for pickup to hospitality workers. Tom Sopit, co-owner of Employee’s Only, also started aGoFundMe account – EOStaffMeal to provide help for his employees. On March 25, Employee’s Only began a collaboration with United States Bartenders Guild SoCal’s Project Cornerstone, which offers “relief packs” to hospitality workers including servers, bar backs, bussers, line cooks, preps, hosts, maitre’ds, floor managers, event planners, caterers, concierges, dishwashers, security.

Unemployed hospitality and bar workers can apply for unemployment benefits with the State of California’s Employment Development Department. However, given the huge number of applications being filed and the complexity of the process, it will take some time for successful applicants to receive benefits.

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