Hospitality sector unites in face of pandemic
The drinks industry has acutely felt the impact of covid-19 on its workforce. But while these are undeniably testing and troublesome times for thousands of industry members, acts of kindness and camaraderie have spilled out across our brilliant sector.
The speed at which the coronavirus pandemic has evolved has hit everyone hard. Countries have been forced into lockdowns, job losses have sky rocketed and in the most tragic cases, death tolls are rising. There is no shying away from the severity of the pandemic.
While the gravity of the situation we all find ourselves in must not be shelved, it is also important to share stories of kinship, kindness and to offer some relief, and hope, during this time of duress.
Over the following pages, you’ll find tales of consumers and industry professionals offering solidarity to one another despite their own tribulations. You’ll also find new campaigns to offset loneliness from isolation, a slight sense of normality and grossly needed support for the on-trade.
But we know there is more being done, and much more that will be done, over the coming weeks and months. So if you know of a good deed that has taken place or a campaign that needs sharing, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave them in the comments below, and we’ll keep adding to this collection as they come in.
Where to find help
For those who are going through extreme hardship right now, please know there is help out there. The Drinks Trust has provided a wealth of information on its website, and is also fundraising to deliver vital support to industry members.
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association is also providing regular updates on how the UK government is responding to the covid-19 pandemic, and more information can also be found at UK Hospitality, which has been lobbying hard for more industry support from the government.
In the States, the Distilled Spirits Council of the US (Discus) is also offering up-to-date information on the pandemic and what it means for the drinks industry. Meanwhile, the USBG National Charity Foundation is raising funds to boost its Bartender Emergency Assistance Program during the covid-19 pandemic.
Hawksmoor London shared numerous heart-warming gestures from its customers on Twitter this week. On Tuesday 17 March, the award-winning restaurant and bar published a statement announcing “the most difficult decisions we have ever made or that we ever hope to make in future”.
The news was that as of 18 March, all Hawksmoor restaurants would temporarily close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement, which was undoubtedly difficult for the company to make, brought about huge compassion from Hawksmoor’s guests.
On its last evening of service, the London arm posted on Twitter: “Tonight we had a regular insist on paying £260 for a £60 bill, and someone who had cancelled call up and pay £50 service charge anyway. The worst situations bring out the most amazing responses in some people. Thank you if you are one of them.”
Hawksmoor gives back
It’s called the hospitality industry for a reason, and this week in particular has highlighted exactly why. City Harvest, a surplus food redistribution charity supporting thousands of vulnerable people in London, has seen demand for its services “skyrocket” in the face of the covid-19 outbreak.
Hawksmoor called on fellow restaurateurs who have been forced to close during the pandemic, or could soon find themselves closing in the coming days, to put any excess stock to good use by donating it to City Harvest.
Hawksmoor said it passed its excess supplies to the charity on Wednesday (18 March), and that its general manager from the Spitalfields restaurant had volunteered to drive deliveries for the organisation.
For anyone able to help, visit cityharvest.org.uk.
Brigade Bar + Kitchen
Brigade Bar + Kitchen in the London Bridge area of the UK capital is doing what it can to ensure anyone who’s vulnerable, isolated or in need of getting freshly cooked meals is able to do so during the covid-19 outbreak.
Founder Simon Boyle said on Twitter that from 19 March, the venue would be offering 500 freshly cooked meals every day for free for the vulnerable in society. Located at 139 Tooley Street, London, SE1 2HZ, the meals are available for pick up and delivery.
Buy your pub a round
With UK patrons advised to avoid their local watering holes in a bid to stem the spread of covid-19, cash flow has become a huge issue for venues without any immediate monetary support from the government.
In a gesture to help its local pub stay afloat during this unprecedented time, creative company Lucky Generals put a £1,000 (US$1,176) tab behind the bar at its local, The Betsey Trotwood in Clerkenwell, London. “We’ll pop in to spend it (and then some…) when this is all over but in the meantime, we’re thinking of you and hope it helps a bit with cashflow. Xxx #Buyyourpubaround,” Lucky Generals posted on Twitter.
The #stickonein campaign has been doing the rounds on Twitter this week as well. Initially launched to support pubs in St Albans, UK, the campaign has been extended to also cover cafés and restaurants in the region. The notion is simple: buy a voucher for drinks, lunch or dinner with the view to spend it once the pandemic has passed, whenever that might be.
The Virtual Happy Hour
Everybody loves a happy hour, but for now, it’s best to stay home and away from your favourite bars to ease the pressure on hospitals. However, that doesn’t mean happy hour can’t continue from the comfort and safety of your home.
A group of hospitality professionals have come together to launch The Virtual Happy Hour, designed to bring imbibers together, through the power of the internet, for a virtual round of drinks. Once ‘happy hour’ is over, each member in the group donates the price of their drink to the group’s favourite bar through the group leader, who will liaise directly with their local pub, bar or restaurant.
Steph DiCamillo, part of the team behind the initiative, said: “Our hospitality industry is more than just food and drink. They are places where communities unite, spaces where people come to celebrate, commiserate and surround themselves with friends and family in the bad times, and the good. Our hospitality venues offer a place where problems (normally) seem solvable after a few cheeky ones.
“Social distancing and self-isolation means these occasions are now pretty much impossible, so #TheVirtualHappyHour team want to encourage people to reconnect safely, whilst ensuring we are doing as much as we can to help the bars, pubs & restaurants we love, survive the next few weeks and months ahead.”
So spread the word and back your favourite bars through #TheVirtualHappyHour. More details and how to take part can be found on the campaign’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
As the on-trade prepared to temporarily close its doors in the UK last night (20 March) as per government order, Anna Sebastian, Artesian bar manager, and Jack Hanlon, part of the No.3 Gin sales team, took it upon themselves to “bottle some sunshine” for their colleagues and friends.
The pair worked throughout the day, and well into the night, to prepare just under 200 ready-to-drink bottles of one Sebastian’s signature serves: The Unicorn. Each one was hand-sealed and labelled, as pictured above.
“We just wanted to do something to give back to this wonderful industry and all our friends that are going through a really tough and uncertain times,” said Hanlon.
And in compliance with social-distancing advice, Hanlon will responsibly deliver the cocktails not just in London, but across the UK, in the No.3 van today (Saturday 21 March). It is hoped their poignant gesture will show their friends and colleagues across the industry that they’re being thought of and remind them all that we’re in this together.