It’s no secret that over the past year the hospitality industry has been disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While public health measures served to curb the spread of the virus, the sweeping shutdowns and reduced capacities often left hospitality professionals displaced.
Closures were announced suddenly and implemented quickly. Loss of income occurred within days and hospitality workers were left struggling to ensure their essential needs could be met.
That was when the Bartenders Benevolent Fund stepped in to support hospitality workers.
Bartenders Benevolent Fund Supports Hospitality Professionals
The Bartenders Benevolent Fund was established in 2013 to support Canadian bartenders, servers and front-of-house support staff struggling with financial hardship.
“The Bartenders Benevolent Fund, when it was established, was small and focused in the Toronto area,” says Madeline McDonald, partnership director of the organization. “Initially, it was a couple of guys who wanted to assist hospitality workers that were out of work due to injury or illness.”
However, due to the harsh impact of the pandemic on the hospitality industry, the organization expanded to support the national population. Currently, it’s powered by a team of 12 people as well as countless volunteers.
They’ve seen support from large liquor brands as well as individual donors, including hospitality professionals that accessed support when they were furloughed, went back to work and came back to donate to the fund.
Fund Offers 2 Main Supports
The organization provides support through two different funds. The Emergency Relief Fund was built to provide financial support to hospitality professionals with urgent basic needs. This fund covers essential costs such as rent, utility and medical bills.
The Food Insecurity Fund works to provide funding to hospitality professionals who are facing food insecurity. Funding is provided digitally to applicants for use at a variety of grocery retailers.
Applications are submitted through their website and are reviewed on a weekly basis so that applicants can receive timely assistance. Since March 2020, they’ve reached thousands of hospitality professionals across Canada, providing more than $720,000 in financial support.
Bartenders Benevolent Fund Continues Their Support
Moving forward, as restrictions are lifted and the hospitality industry dips its toes back into the post-pandemic world, hospitality workers still face many challenges. The impacts of the pandemic on the hospitality industry are not gone and funding will remain open to those who need it.
Challenges facing the hospitality industry continue to persist, with or without the pandemic. Some of the issues identified by the organization include low and stagnant wages and lack of representation of the BIPOC community. McDonald says they will continue to advocate for hospitality staff, and ideas for further support include education and seminars.