Tennessee Action for Hospitality establishes relief fund for hospitality workers

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Tennessee Action for Hospitality is a statewide coalition of independent restaurant owners, hourly workers and chefs that recently formed as a response to the crisis the hospitality industry is facing due to COVID-19. 

In an effort to support hospitality professionals who plan to continue their career in Tennessee when the crisis is over, Tennessee Action for Hospitality has partnered with The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (CFMT) to create A Fund for Us, a fund that will provide swift relief to those who have lost their job or seen a dramatic decrease in hours worked.

Through A Fund for Us, grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded to individuals who meet the criteria, as resources are available. CFMT will administer the fund on behalf of the coalition, following a two-part application process:

1. Qualifying small businesses must meet the following criteria:

• Based in Tennessee, with an operating business license as of March 1, 2020. 

• Offers an experience centered upon enjoyment of high quality food and/or beverage, with an emphasis on restaurant service, employing both full-time front- and back-of-house workers. 

• The owner(s) of the establishment work full-time for their restaurant(s), bar(s), caterer(s) or restaurant group. 

• The owner(s) of the establishment were instrumental in the creation of their business, and are free from outside control by way of majority ownership — not publicly traded, a franchise or chain. 

2. Individual employees can then apply for grants, based on the following criteria:

• Currently or most previously employed by a pre-qualified independent restaurant, caterer or bar (as defined before). 

• Someone who plans on re-entering the hospitality industry at the end of this public health crisis.

• Someone for whom hospitality pay is at least 80% of their income.

• Someone who had worked for their most recent employer a minimum of six months. 

• No limit on household members. 

• Individuals who make under $85,000 annually.

While there are many worthwhile funds through national organizations, A Fund for Us sets itself apart by specifically serving individuals from the hospitality sector in the state of Tennessee. 

Restaurants can register by visiting https://cfmt.formstack.com/forms/tnaction4hospitality_business. The individual application will be open online starting April 13. 

The importance placed specifically on employees of independent restaurants and bars is to preserve what cannot be replaced — establishments that create culture — by providing assistance to those professionals who may not qualify for other need-based funds but who cannot meet their financial obligations by unemployment alone. Anyone who considers themselves a part of the independent hospitality industry is welcome to apply — from caterers and banquet workers to bartenders, servers, restaurant managers, line cooks, dishwashers and more — and CFMT will choose those who are the best fit for funding based on need.

Tennessee Action for Hospitality chose to partner with The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that it has a state-wide network. CFMT will act as an impartial third party that can administer A Fund for Us fairly and according to the coalition’s criteria. Both qualifying and non-qualifying applicants will receive guidance from the foundation’s employee assistance team regarding other available resources. 

“Our friends in the hospitality industry are an integral piece to making Nashville thrive and are woven into the fabric of this community,” Ellen Lehman, president of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, said. “We collectively have to do everything we can to help the independent restaurateurs, bartenders, dishwashers, managers, cooks and servers as they weather this terrible economic storm with us. Together, we are Nashville. Together, we are Tennessee.” 

A Fund for Us was initiated through generous contributions from Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery and Cool Springs Wines & SpiritsWine & Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee, a statewide trade association of Tennessee wine and spirits distributors (including Athens Distributing Company, Best Brands Incorporated, Beverage Control Inc, Empire Distributors Inc,  Knoxville Beverage, Lipman Brothers, Triple C Distributing and West Tennessee Crown Distributing Co.) has pledged to match all consumer donations up to $200,000. Individual donations will be accepted online starting next week.

“It has been an unprecedented few weeks as our community faces historic challenges,” said Bret Moore, president and CEO of Cool Springs Wine & Spirits. “Amid the stress and uncertainty, we want to support those in our industry who are profoundly affected by this crisis. We invite our fellow retailers, distributors and suppliers to join us in this relief effort for workers in the on-premise industry.”

“The hospitality industry represents the cultural heartbeat of Tennessee, comprised of individuals who work tirelessly so we can all enjoy the company of our friends and family over a meal,” Charlie Nelson, president of Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, said. “This community has supported me and my business from day one, and without these amazing individuals, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

“The Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee are encouraged to see this important fund generate much needed help to our hospitality partners,” said Ryan Haynes, executive director of Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee. “Now more than ever we must band together and stand with our local businesses during these difficult times.” 

Those interested in making a corporate contribution to A Fund for Us should reach out to Marcia Masulla, who leads fundraising for Tennessee Action for Hospitality, at marcia@roarnashville.com or mail checks (payable to TN Action for Hospitality Fund) to the address below:

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee

P.O. Box 440225

Nashville, Tennessee 37244  

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