ALBANY — With your stimulus check on the way, you can put a small portion of it towards a kind gesture.
COVID-19 has shuttered bars and restaurants across the state since mid-March. Though some eateries have remained open to takeout-only service, the shutdown has stolen the income away from the faces we often see most.
Local hospitality leaders have scrambled to provide support to bartenders, servers and chefs by providing online tools that help consumers get in contact with them.
One such move is a simple online spreadsheet of names and addresses to online payment accounts. The Google Doc was started by Jennifer “JC” Colletti. She tends bar at The Bishop, Tipsy Moose and Druthers Brewing Company in Albany. She compiled a list of names, both the server’s and the establishment in which he or she is associated with, and a hyperlink towards either a PayPal, Venmo or CashApp account.
Colletti said she came across the idea after a friend found himself sending tips to his bartender friends over Venmo.
“He explained that if he had been drinking those beers in a bar — where he’d like to be — he’d be tipping his bartenders, so why not do so while having some drinks at home,” she said.
After he suggested she share the idea over social media, Colletti gathered names and composed the list on Google Docs. The idea caught on quickly, and her Facebook post was shared 200 times in a matter of a few days. Though it was intended to be just a local effort, she said servers in Virginia and Florida had asked to be added, too.
Approximately 80 million Americans are expected to receive their stimulus checks this week. It’s the federal government’s attempt to help a country marred by empty classrooms, empty grocery store shelves and long unemployment lines. The stay-at-home policies in New York and other states have taken a toll, akin to cabin fever for many. However, Colletti said she’s hanging in by keeping busy. She bakes for friends, cooks meals for cancer patients and has even taken up yoga.
“Our friends do a lot of online meetings and happy hours to keep each other’s spirits up,” she said. “As everyone is saying ‘we’re all in this together,’ we’re all just trying to help each other out as much as possible.”
The “Bar-Tender” spreadsheet is open for anyone to view without fear of someone erasing. It’s an ingenious way of getting the word out to people who seek to help. To access it, visit https://bit.ly/BarTender518.
No matter what venue or crowd, “tip your bartender” is a phrase uttered by musicians at every local show. The namaste moment shared between struggling artist and struggling bartender almost goes unnoticed, but it comes to mind now that we’ve endured a month without either.
The Hollow Bar and Kitchen is a popular joint in Albany for both food, drinks and live music. Sasha Blanket is an employee, and like many, she said, “we’re not sure when we will be able to open back up, or when things will start to normalize again.”
Blanket is one of scores of local servers who have connected to Tipyourbartender.online. It’s another online service to help them, but it also adds a little incentive to those wishing to pay a tip.
Customers need only submit a receipt of $5 or more from Venmo or Paypal to [email protected] Each tip qualifies a person a chance to win a free $50 gift card to a restaurant in the Capital District.
The endeavor was launched from the start of the shutdown. It involved Jeff Buell and Jessica Sheridan, of Redburn Development Partners; Dominick Purnomo, of Yono’s Restaurant; and Heidi Knoblauch, of Pioneer Bank. To visit the website, go to tipyourbartender.online.
“Everyone in the industry is suffering right now so any little bit counts,” Blanket states on her online profile. “I appreciate you and anything you are willing to contribute.”
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.