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Laid-off restaurant staff in Atlantic Canada can apply for this fund every week

The Bartenders Benevolent Fund is for front-of-house staff who need short-term cash.

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The Bartenders Benevolent Fund was originally started in Ontario back in 2013, but with the onslaught of COVID-19 layoffs it has expanded across the country. “It was definitely a lot more Ontario-focused before this happened,” says Lindsay Jones, bar manager at The Ostrich Club in Halifax and one of the BBF's Atlantic region disbursement panellists. Now the fund has expanded to five regions.

Along with two other local bartenders—Keegan McGregor from Field Guide and Rachel Thraves from Durty Nelly’s—each week Jones goes through 25 Atlantic region applications to award a total of $3,000. Since the pandemic started six weeks ago, they've awarded $18,000.

“There is an allotted amount of money that we disperse every week just so we can make sure that we can keep this fund going, just as long as possible,” she tells The Coast. Applicants can be awarded $100, $250 or $500 based on need.

“Tips make up a lot of our funds,” says Jones. “Most people are getting less than half their income right now.”

The funds have come from individual online donors through the website, but the majority have been from companies in the industry and liquor brands.

“People like Brown Forman and Jack Daniel’s, Corby, and the list goes on,” says Jones. “The whole community has been quite supportive throughout this whole thing, so they have been seeing a lot of funds which is great.”

The funds are awarded anonymously by the panellists who look through the applications. “We do encourage them to tell us what they do need the money for, because it will be easier for us to grant it and make sure that the money is going to the people that need it the most,” Jones says.

Since COVID-19 began, all the applicant spots are filled within mere hours of them opening up on Tuesdays. “It fills up real quick, and there are definitely a lot of people out there who are in need of things like this,” Jones says.

Over the past six weeks, Jones says the Bartenders Benevolent Fund has gotten positive feedback from those in the industry.

“I’m super thankful it’s helping a lot of people, I know we’ve done a few that have been pretty life-changing for some people, which is great,” says Jones. “I know it’s not a lot of money, but anything helps right now.”

Although she hopes restaurant staff can soon begin to return to work, Jones says the fund will continue after the pandemic in a similar capacity as it did before. “They will keep this fund going afterwards because this industry as a whole—a lot of us don’t get benefits, we don’t necessarily have job security or anything like that.”

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