Help available for out-of-work DC restaurant employees during coronavirus pandemic

Restaurants donated carry out bags for relief supplies. (Jill Collins)
Hospitality relief bags include a roll of toilet paper and other necessities. (Jill Collins)
Chef Jamie Leeds, owner of Hank’s Oyster Bar, delivered 3000 oysters that volunteer chefs will use to make oyster stew meals. With Frank Mitolo of Hook Hall. (Jill Collins )
PJ Clarke’s delivered two car loads of sauces, poultry, condiments. (Jill Collins)
Occasions Caterers donated a refrigerated truck which is parked at Hook Hall’s loading dock. Restaurant donations are kept here. (Jill Collins)
Hospitality industry workers line up for meals and supplies distributed from 6 until 8 daily, seven days a week, at Hook Hall in Park View, 3400 Georgia Ave. NW. (Jill Collins)

While some restaurants in the District have been able to stay open, despite new restrictions limiting contact between workers and customers, other restaurants and all bars have closed until further notice due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It’s a move that has impacted thousands of workers, who now find themselves without a steady source of income for the foreseeable future.

New efforts are now attempting to provide financial assistance for those involved.

One effort sees D.C. bar and event space Hook Hall joining forces with the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. They have started “Hook Hall Helps,” a coronavirus worker relief service.

Donations of essential supplies, such as toilet paper, dry goods and prepared meals, are assembled daily.

Hook Hall owner Anne Valero said their work began quickly once rumors of a shutdown began circulating among restaurant workers.

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“We realized we could still get access to a lot of those supplies from our vendors,” said Valero. “The inspiration actually came from our own workers.”

Once Hook Hall was closed to the public, Valero and her employees began putting together the care packages in its expansive space.

The packages include fresh bread and fruits. So far, more than 2,500 have been helped.

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Those out of work can stop by Hook Hall, at 3400 Georgia Avenue NW, daily from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to pick up the care packages and hot meals.

Donations are being accepted and Valero said money is greatly needed to sustain the effort at this time.

Another initiative is allowing people to donate directly to restaurant workers and bartenders who are not currently working.

Impacted workers fill out a short Google Form, adding where they work, along with their Venmo/CashApp/PayPal handles, and some other details and then they can use The Virtual Tip Jar.

Their information is added to an ever-growing spreadsheet. The website generates a random name from the spreadsheet each time you visit, but a link is available to the entire list of names.

Maggie Winters Gaudaen, Creative Director with January Third, said while the spreadsheet had been created days before, she got in touch with its creators, to make it more prominently available via a dedicated website.

“More than 4,000 are now on the spreadsheet, and it really shows how great our restaurant and bar scene here is,” said Gaudaen. “I love being able to see that it’s my favorite bartender from Right Proper, or the server I always go to at The Royal, and being able to donate directly to the people that I know, and want to make sure that we’re all supporting each other.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that Hook Hall is a bar and event space. 

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