Cheers to a ‘Decent’ New Year 2022, PLEASE?!?

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 1/2/2022

Well, that was another hellacious, exhausting year, punctuated by a Covid encore, resembling more of a perpetual ‘purgatory’ than a joyous crescendo. We’re on an unenviable 5-year roll in America. Like many of you, I personally know more people who recently tested positive, than at any other time since the plague’s invasion. Reflections of ‘gratitude’ become more of an important, elusive challenge at the conclusion of years like 2021. I believe there is a just tendency to downsize our grandiose, forward-thinking expectations during these precarious times. ‘Reality Bites’ is more than ever ominous, foreboding, and true…

The clichéd, “Happy” New Year, despite good intentions, reminds me of the unsolicited, “You should smile more!” exclamation from grating, perky humans, without even a patronizing greeting first… And ‘Happy’ is subjective and personal. (I know, ‘issues,’ but I’m a jaded optimist.)

While gathering questionnaire responses for my book and blog, one server replied to “Advice for customers?” with, “Despite all of the requests for big tips, I believe that, more importantly, most servers wish that all of their customers would just be decent humans.” Amen. Bring on a ‘decent’ in 2022…

In that spirit of simplification, I’m sharing the same message here with SNS readers that I did with my 9 siblings on New Year’s Eve:

And a supplement on Instagram; Looking forward to following through on those walks, coffee/tea connections, drinks, BBQ’s, diner breakfasts, ‘breaking bread,’ field trips, and live chats we keep postponing… (Let’s make these happen.) In the recent words of America’s Poet, Amanda Gorman, “Whether we like it or not, we are in this together.”

Speaking of walks, the pic of the bird in the upper left of this post is a Great Blue Heron that I frequently see in the water at Hall’s Pond Sanctuary, a short distance from my home. On New Year’s Day, it was perched in a tree due to the colder water, according to a chatty nature enthusiast I met.

Stan Grossfield, two-time Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist in today’s Boston Globe Magazine, 1/2/22. Fly Me to The Moon: The space race you never knew about: Stan Grossfield’s NASA competition with Walter Cronkite:

In some circles photojournalists are treated like second-class citizens. “Are you a reporter or do you JUST take the photos?” has always annoyed me. Actually, I do both. If there was only one seat, why not send me?

[Sound familiar servers and bartenders?!? “What’s your REAL job?”]

Stan continues: I no longer want to go into space. That money would be better spentsaving our beloved Earth and trying to unite these Un-united States. As the worst epidemic of the past century continues to divide us, I wish we could just take a giant leap forward together, be kinder to each other, and spread some good karma around this beautiful planet we all share. 

Gratitude 2021: Frontline Workers, Scientists, Family, Small Victories, Sibling Safety and Health, #5 #MiddleKidsForLife, Loyal Friends, Generosity, Kindness, Empathy, Compassion, Teachers, Nurses, Doctors, Nature, Journalistic Integrity, Trust, Medicine, #SwimClub, Peace of Mind, Walks & Hope.

To support the mission and expedite the publication of the Server Not Servant book, please consider a contribution on Venmo @Patrick-Maguire-32 (last 4 digits of cell: 5682) or click on “Support Server Not Servant” in the blue box on the right-hand side of this post. Please contact me for personal and corporate sponsorships via email: Cheers-Patrick

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The Legend & Legacy of Tony Russo and Iconic Russo’s Produce Market in Watertown, MA

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 9/28/2021

The accolades pouring in for Tony Russo, his family, and legendary Russo’s Market in Watertown, Massachusetts appear very well-deserved. But there is never a shortage of divergent viewpoints, even when a venerable, veteran icon closes out an extremely successful run.

On 8/15/21, via Russo’s Facebook Page:

To Our Devoted and Loyal Customers,⁣

After more than 70 years working for the family business, Tony Russo is retiring. ⁣

Our business will close this fall.⁣

It has been Tony’s privilege to serve our many wholesale and retail customers for seven decades.⁣

Our business began as a small farm in Watertown more than 100 years ago. Every day at Russo’s – while surrounded by fresh produce – Tony is reminded of working alongside his grandparents on the farm and later, of working alongside his father and uncle at their wholesale warehouse. Their work ethic became his inspiration. Throughout the years, Tony has worked in all areas of the retail and wholesale business including trimming vegetables, driving trucks, loading and unloading trailers, putting up wholesale orders, sweeping the floor, buying produce and overseeing the most subtle details of the retail store. At any time, customers can find him involved in the displays of the fruits, vegetables, flowers, bakery, deli, cheese and garden departments. His days begin around 3:30 AM and end after 8 PM.⁣

Tony has treasured watching generations of families shopping together as they choose their first spring vegetable plants, or the first local apples of the season and as they shop for Christmas trees (with classical music playing in the background, of course).⁣

Tony deeply appreciates and will truly miss the employees who have worked everyday, sometimes outside in the harshest of weather conditions. These employees represent the backbone and the energy of the Russo’s environment, and their efforts will never be forgotten. ⁣

We cannot overstate Tony’s dedication to the world of fruits, vegetables and flowers. We also cannot overstate his dedication to Russo’s wonderful employees, customers, growers and suppliers. And we cannot thank Tony enough for what he has brought to so many people’s lives.⁣

Thank you,⁣
Russo’s ⁣

Thousands of comments, the majority laudatory and congratulatory, followed the gush of reporting. Here’s a small sampling of the media coverage:

Boston Globe, 8/23/21. Sheryl Julian, Boston Globe Correspondent and former Globe Food Editor, Dear Tony Russo ‘The author writes a farewell letter to the owner of Russo’s, the 100-year-old Watertown produce market that will close this fall’

“When we met in the late ‘70s, I had just moved back to Watertown (my father was stationed at Watertown Arsenal when I was born) and had switched my allegiance from DeVincent Farms in Waltham, which grew a lot of its own produce in season, to what was then a tiny A. Russo & Sons, never particularly easy to navigate, where the seasonal fruits and vegetables came from farmers and distributors with whom your family had decades-long relationships…

Years ago, when we were chatting between the produce aisles — you always stopped to say hello to customers if you were on the floor — you told me that sometimes you came to work with a blinding headache because you lived on so little sleep. Yet, in all the years I’ve been shopping at your farm stand, I have only seen you very courteous and gracious to everyone. And I’ve noticed many fussy and grumpy customers. Bravo to you for how you handle them. Someone can be berating you for something they bought that wasn’t up to snuff, and Tony, quite frankly, you should give lessons to other customer service reps on how to offer a sincere apology. Even your own staff never learned to finesse that aspect of the business…

Watertown is very different from the place you or I knew decades ago. Developers have probably been after you for years. Although you won’t discuss it, you sold four parcels of land, which included the market, for $36.5 million, according to Massachusetts Land Records. There is some talk in town that the land may become a biolab. I have no doubt you will help the 240 workers who have made the shop hum all these years find their next jobs…

…You’ve been at this for 70 years. Your energy and curiosity and general good will kept the market fresh and new, and all those generations of families returning.

Just one of thousands who are sorry to see you go, Sheryl Julian

WBUR, 8/17/21,  Magdiela Matta‘After A Century In Business, Russo’s In Watertown Will Close’:

“Local shoppers are in disbelief after learning that Watertown’s beloved market, Russo’s, will be closing permanently this fall. Russo’s began as a family farm more than 100 years ago. Tony Russo has worked at the market for more than 70 years and is retiring, according to a company statement…”

Just as shoppers will miss Russo’s, so will the employees. An employee for 14 years, Marvin Rodas, was notified last Friday about the closure. With the community Russo’s has built, Rodas says that “Shoppers know us even by our first names, a lot of people have even left us business cards and encouraged us to apply to other places.”

Mildred Avila , an employee of Russo’s for eight years, says the announcement was a shock to her. She says “Here, no one treats you badly—none of that.  [Tony’s] been a good boss, but he’s getting older now and needs the rest.”

Wicked Local-Watertown Tab, 8/19/21, Joanna K. Tzouvelis: ‘Russo’s property on Pleasant Street in Watertown sells for $36.5 million’:

“Russo’s, 560 Pleasant St., Watertown, in business for 100 years, announced on Aug. 15 they will closing this fall because owner Tony Russo decided to retire after 70 years. According to Massachusetts Land Records, 4.8 acres of property located at 532-542, 550, 560 and 570 Pleasant St. was sold on Aug. 18 to NewTower Trust Company of Bethesda, Maryland for $36.5 million.

More than 230 will be jobless.

Russo sent a letter to the Town Council on Aug. 13 to notify the town under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, and applicable regulations and state obligations, 239 employees will be permanently laid off beginning around Oct. 12 or within two weeks thereafter or later based on business needs and circumstances…

…The letter states, “We are mindful of the difficulties that this closure and layoff poses to employees and the Watertown community, given Russo’s longstanding presence here. Accordingly, we will make efforts to provide as smooth a transition as possible under the circumstances.”

[The final day of business at Russo’s was actually September 18, 2021. And many of the employees interviewed for the news and newspapers were surprised by the announcement. It appears that they did not receive much more notice than the public did.]

Boston Globe, September 19, 2021, Adam Sennott: Customers make one last trip to Russo’s in Watertown

Christopher Walker, 34 of Everett, said he’s been shopping at Russo’s for about eight years and called the market an institution.

“You’re kind of seeing a great thing go, and you have all the nostalgia from all the times you shopped and the great produce and seasonality of it,” Walker said.

“I just feel for all the people who put in, employees wise, put in all that time and effort in, and I feel like they’re the true heartbeat of this institution,” Walker added. “I’m just curious to know what they’re going to do. It seems like it’s very abrupt. [It’s] shocking.”

Most of the praise in the public comments in response to the features covering the closing of Russo’s echoed this one in the Facebook Group, You Know You’re From Watertown, MA If……  [The original post this comment was in response to was simply, 36.5 Million!!?!?!?!!?!! and included a link to this article in Watertown Tab.

Sparsely sprinkled in with the praise, congrats, and well-wishes were jaded criticisms about development, ‘progress,’ (change in general), greed, and the lingering questions, “What will happen to the employees?” “Will they be taken care of, especially the veterans?” “Will they receive a bonus/severance compensation?” I wondered all of those things.

Here are a few more examples of the replies to the Facebook group post:

Nicole Sapienza: “More condos. Watertown is not the close knit community it once was Too bad.”

[I walked Pleasant Street in Watertown on Sunday, 9/26/21. It’s a non-descript, ‘industrial/business’ stretch of road. Not the best location for condos, in my opinion.]

Elisabeth C. Strekalovsky: “I don’t think we need any more science buildings!”

[‘Science buildings’ and labs are shaping up to be the ‘best use’ of land along Pleasant Street, based on the huge Real Estate marketing billboards currently posted there.]

Laureen Pollard: “I just have to say, put yourself in his shoes and were given this much to walk away, tell me you wouldn’t take it!! Give the guy a break! Would most of you walk away from the highest bidder on your house or sell it to someone for half the price? I’m sure you wouldn’t!”

And this was an interesting, creative comment in the group:

In addition to my comment (Patrick Maguire) above, I added another comment to the Facebook thread:

“It’s a wonderful story. I wonder how it will end for the 239ish displaced (especially long-time, loyal) employees.
Usually when a ‘Mom & Pop’ shop closes, amongst the public outcry of, “Just what we needed, more condos or another bank,” I defend the owners for closing ‘on their terms’ and cashing in their de facto (often non-existent) 401k. [This is especially true for operators who were smart and fortunate enough to own the appreciating real estate they worked out of.]

 I’ve read almost every piece (and many of the comments) on Russo’s closing, including the Watertown News article stating, “The Russo’s market property was sold for $36.5 million to NewTower Trust Company, of Bethesda, Md., according to a report on Wicked Local Watertown.”

I’ve also been emailing and texting local friends and journalists wondering if anyone was researching the angle of the story that many people are wondering about–Will Tony take care of his employees (especially the long-time, loyal staff)? It’s a perspective that’s rarely researched and reported on in detail, including interviews with several employees, not just a small sampling of disgruntled ax grinders. I’d love to hear that Russo’s employees were given ample lead time to plan their transition, and told that if they stayed on through closing, they would receive a bonus based on a creative formula of years of service and hours worked. Hopefully, they’ll receive a bonus and transitional assistance, even if they move on before the final day (some won’t be able to wait).” 

Rather than speculate, I decided to ask Tony Russo. I started by sending a message via the ‘contact tab’ on the Russo’s website. The first message I sent on August 31 was quickly confirmed, but went unanswered. I followed up with 4 more messages on the Russo’s website from September 2nd through September 8th. All messages were confirmed via email. Here is confirmation from Russo’s, and a copy of the fifth message I sent on 9/8:

On 9/14, I also mailed a printed, hard-copy of the message above, and called Russo’s.  After identifying myself and asking for Tony, I was sent to his voicemail where I left a detailed message reiterating the info above. I never heard back from Tony or anyone from Russo’s.

This troubling public (albeit anonymous), comment from ‘Fred’ was posted in response to the article by Charlie Breitrose in the Watertown News on 8/20/21:

I am still trying to obtain a copy of the letter sent to the Russo’s staff. I will edit/add it to this blog post if it’s forwarded to me.

How much money is enough?

I once worked for an extremely privileged, silver-spoon wealthy, oblivious company owner who stated in one of our management meetings, “People aren’t motivated by money.” Bullshit. Obviously, respect, trust, gratitude, and company culture (to name a few) are essential components of employee satisfaction and retention, but competitive compensation absolutely plays a critical role in motivating employees.

It’s very refreshing to learn about companies like Gravity Payments, and Chobani ‘sharing the wealth’ with their employees.

CBS News, 9/16/21: CEO on why giving all employees minimum salary of $70,000 still “works” six years later: “Our turnover rate was cut in half”:

It was six years ago when CEO Dan Price raised the salary of everyone at his Seattle-based credit card processing company Gravity Payments to at least $70,000 a year.

Price slashed his own salary by $1 million to be able to give his employees a pay raise. He was hailed a hero by some and met with predictions of bankruptcy from his critics. 

But that has not happened; instead, the company is thriving…

…Price thinks Gravity’s returns are up in large part because bigger paychecks have lead to fiercely loyal employees.

[So much for the old adage, “You can’t ‘buy’ loyalty.” You can reduce ‘owner’ compensation/profit and more equitably incentivize employees.]

NPR, Yuki Noguchi, 4/28/16: ‘Why Chobani Gave Employees A Financial Stake In Company’s Future.’

 It’s been a good week for employees of Chobani. They learned that they could eventually own about 10 percent of the rapidly expanding Greek yogurt company. That could potentially make millionaires of some workers, if the privately held company is sold or goes public…

…Founder Hamdi Ulukaya’s only experience in the dairy business was that his mother made delicious strained yogurt in his hometown in Turkey…

…Ulukaya — still Chobani’s majority owner — told employees on Tuesday to think of the grants as a pledge to expand the company even more.

“We used to work together; now we are partners,” he told workers at the company’s facility in New Berlin, N.Y.

Ulukaya is outspoken about corporate civic duty. Ten percent of Chobani profits go to charity. One-third of its workforce is made up of refugees. And an employee ownership grant was always part of Ulukaya’s dream plan.

…”One of the hardest things to do for a program like this, is when you have 2,000 employees that you want to participate in it, is figuring out that allocation,” Gonda says. “Obviously, time and role at the company have a huge part to play, but this is a very personal part of the process for Hamdi, and he spent a lot of time going through that.”

The company didn’t disclose details about the allocations, but the longest-serving employees received the largest shares.

Which leads us to the question, When companies like Russo’s realize a hard-earned, significant windfall after selling their business, are they ‘morally’ obligated to share a portion of their good fortune with the people who helped them achieve a tremendous outcome? Or is it enough that they provided stable employment, benefits, and more for the duration of the relationship with their employees? In these instances, are employers indebted to compensate loyal, long-term workers anything beyond what they legally ‘owe’ them? I say, yes. Lastly, aside from the local, state, and federal legal requirements, does a privately-held company owe anyone an explanation beyond their employees?

Every situation is unique, and Russo’s is no exception. Without intimate knowledge all of the personal, family, business, and financial circumstances and details behind the scenes, who are we to judge?  I’m just hoping that the ‘lifers’ got a lucrative ‘shot in the arm’ on the way out the door…

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Servers Not Served – Unemployment Insurance Not Provided to Thousands of Hospitality Workers Across Massachusetts

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 7/17/2021

This guest post is provided by Molly Kivi, an accountant turned unemployed server, who believes hospitality is a way of life. When the pandemic started, she used her knowledge of law, taxes, and government bureaucracy to serve her fellow restaurant workers by advocating for needed change in the flawed unemployment insurance program.

On July 22nd at 5pm the Commission to Study Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Solvency will hold a public hearing about the importance of safeguarding Massachusetts workers’ access to unemployment insurance. The Commission is jointly chaired by Senator Pat Jehlen of Second Middlesex district and Representative Josh Cutler of Sixth Plymouth district. You can sign up to speak at the hearing here.

This commission was enacted into law on April 1st, 2021, in response to the Unemployment Tax and Benefit Reform campaign. This restaurant-worker led campaign began in March of 2020 to warn lawmakers that the unemployment system was not ready for fiscal and social emergencies such as COVID-19.

Unemployment insurance is an important public health and economic stability tool. The restaurant industry employs 10% of the nation’s labor force. In 2020, we realized that the state’s UI program was not ready for a crisis. Facebook groups like Industry United, MA Unemployment Consultation, and MA PUA and UI Unemployment Help sprang up in response to an entire industry of people having issues accessing benefits.

Unemployment insurance is designed to protect workers from economic devastation when forces out of their control take their livelihood away. Workers are forced out of their jobs all the time due to unsafe work conditions, job duties, and workplace behaviors that are unlawful, as well as layoffs due to economic downturns and in industries that experience cyclical job losses, like the arts and construction.

Despite its importance for safeguarding workers’ livelihoods, the Massachusetts unemployment insurance system has some significant structural flaws. The benefit payments do not factor in purchasing power, so insurance increasingly fails to help workers deal with a rising cost of living. The tax system used to fund the program is also regressive, because the taxable wage base is capped at the first $15,000 of workers’ income. Furthermore, because employers’ tax rates increase when layoffs occur, smaller businesses end up paying into the system higher rates than large businesses that are better able to weather business cycle fluctuations. Finally, for decades the trust fund that holds the money to distribute benefit payments has not collected enough revenue to comply with the Department of Labor standards, due to a  tax break benefiting big business enacted in 1997 costing the state 13 billion dollars.

The effects of an insolvent trust fund ripple throughout the state economy, ultimately hurting the working class the most. The application process places a cumbersome administrative burden on unemployed workers, and restrictions on access often disqualify workers unjustly. The taxes used to pay interest on the loans that Massachusetts takes out to cover its unemployment insurance liability are levied with a regressive impact on small businesses and workers.

The restaurant industry serves the public. We host families on special occasions, we calm the nerves on first dates, and we provide the place for friends to gather. As an industry we were asked again to sacrifice. To stay home, lose out on job security and income to protect the public health of our communities. Unfortunately, the social insurance that was supposed to be there was not there for many restaurant industry workers.

If you have a story about your experience with unemployment insurance, please sign up and share it. July 22nd at 5pm is our day to be heard. Thank you.

Please watch this YouTube video for a more in-depth understanding of Unemployment Insurance:  Solidarity LIVE! Unemployment insurance: making it more equitable in Massachusetts. With Molly Kivi.

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President Biden & Congress: URGENT Request to Replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund-Support ALL Eligible Independent Restaurants & Bars NOW!!! #ReplenishRRF

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 7/12/2021

What would you do if you owned a business and were notified that after barely surviving the horrific hardship of the pandemic, a significant cash windfall/grant (not loan) was imminent? Spend/invest in personal and professional necessities/improvements you were holding off on? Take care of your employees, family, colleagues, employees, vendors, and landlord? Splurge/celebrate a little, believing substantial help was on the verge of finally becoming reality?

That scenario is exactly what played out to hundreds of thousands of hopeful independent restaurant and bar owners across America recently. The promise of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was palpable. And on Wednesday, 6/30, the proverbial rug was pulled out from under most of the grant-eligible restaurants in an email from the US Small Business Administration. This is absolute bullshit, and President Biden, his administration, and Congress need to urgently replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund until EVERY eligible, Independent Restaurant and Bar in America is funded according to what they qualified for.

Tragically, many restaurants and bars will not have time to wait for a replenishment of the fund. And ironically, many folks that received huge grants may decide to ‘take the money and run’, after contemplating, “Why reopen and go back to the rat race if I don’t need to prove how I spend the money?” In an industry with 5(ish) percent ‘profit’ margins, you’re essentially ‘giving back’ 95% of the grant by grinding it out and staying open. This WILL happen, and should have been anticipated/prevented in the screening process. Based on the initial formula for eligibility, a lot of restaurants that received huge grants were actually rewarded for shutting down 100% rather than ‘pivoting’ the way that many of their peers did to support their staff, vendors, and community. The greater the loss, the bigger the grants. Yes, every restaurant, owner, and set of ethical standards are unique, and many ‘true colors,’ good, bad, and ugly have been revealed throughout the plague…

Even worse than learning that the RRF has been depleted, is the kick in the teeth finding out that ‘ineligible’ restaurants received huge grants by circumventing the qualification requirements or leveraging their political clout to cheat the system. Why weren’t their grants rescinded? Those funds could have been spread out to Mom and Pop neighborhood restaurants and bars that didn’t get a dime. If you’re furious, I’m with you, and it’s time to take action. And the restaurants that were fortunate enough to receive grants from the first round of funding need to continue to fight for equity for their industry brothers and sisters until every eligible restaurant in America is funded.

On Thursday, July 1, I posted the following in my Server Not Servant Facebook Group, Instagram, and Twitter:

“Awful news for many independent U S. restaurants anxiously awaiting word on the status of their Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants. From the 7/1/21 Restaurant Business article, “In a letter emailed Wednesday night to applicants, the U.S. Small Business Administration said it was able to provide grants of up to $10 million to 105,000 restaurant operators before the program’s $28.6 billion was depleted. Yet, it indicated, another 265,000 applicants were left disappointed…Legislation has been introduced in the Senate to replenish the fund with an additional $60 billion, but the bill has not progressed.”

Simple math indicated that the grant program was woefully underfunded from the outset. Precedent had been set when the U.S. Govt ‘bailed out’ big banks, Bear Stearns (“Too big to fail”), FNMA, Freddie Mac, AIG & Insurance companies, the Airline & Auto Industries during crises. Independent restaurants are major contributors to the US economy, and the pandemic is one of the worst calamities we have ever faced as a nation.

Further, “Second-order effects of restaurant closures ripple through the American economy, bringing economic pain to farmers, foragers, ranchers, manufacturers, and other producers who supply the industry. Equally hit are supply chain partners who move good across the country.” –Forbes 8/10/20

Owning and operating a restaurant and small business is a fucking grind during ‘normal’ times. After what restaurateurs have endured since the onset of the pandemic, the U S. Congress needs to act urgently to replenish the fund and equitably provide grants to every eligible independent restaurant in America. If not, with the increase in food and labor costs, and shortage of staff, the absence of the highly-anticipated grants will be the death knell for a rash of neighborhood restaurants teetering on the brink.”

In the comments on all 3 platforms I added the following:

According to the NYT, 7/1/21, “When Congress created the restaurant fund in March as part of the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, it ordered the Small Business Administration to put a priority on funding for businesses owned by women, people of color and military veterans.”

I fully support priority being ‘granted’ to oppressed or ‘underserved’ (SBA’s language) groups of American restaurant and bar owners. It’s about fucking time. However, with more forethought and creativity, lawmakers could have done a much better job executing the distribution of funds. What unfolded is a clusterfuck of lawsuits, rescinded grants, policy changes, empty promises, disappointment, high stress. and anxiety.

“For a hundred thousand restaurants, the R.R.F. has made their future clear and stable, but for the more than 200,000 operators shut out of funding, receiving this letter today only heightens their fear and anger,” said Sean Kennedy, a spokesman for the National Restaurant Association. “We need Congress to act.” -NYT

Without additional funding, they will undermine the initiative by perpetuating jealousy/envy/anger between the ‘haves’ (grantees) and ‘have nots,’ again. This is exactly what many Americans have been trying to ameliorate forever…

What should have been done? 

Again, to me, the most glaring inequity here is that many restaurants and bars (groups) received $10 million grants, and MANY received ZERO. Here’s proof. (Click on the link to see what restaurants in your neighborhood/state received, and which Mom and Pop joints you love received nothing.)  It doesn’t take a Fields Medal recipient to realize that a more thoughtful, creative, equitable distribution of funds was possible.

  1. Very simply, if $28.6 billion was available for 370,000 eligible applicants, $77k+ could have been distributed to everyone eligible.
  2. I get that the $10 Million grant recipients have more than 1 restaurant. However, instead of disbursing $10 million to some restaurant groups, even if they got $1 million and the other $9 million was disbursed in $50k increments, 180 Mom and Pop neighborhood restaurants that didn’t receive a nickel would be absolutely thrilled right now instead of infuriated. [In an industry where 5% ‘profit’ margins are common, it would take $1 million in sales to generate $50k in profit.]

This IS LIFE or DEATH for restaurants and bars. And without our outrage and support, many more will close for good.

I’ve been an early advocate of a federal grant program and relief for independent restaurants and bars, here, here, here, here, and here.  Conceptually, philosophically, and morally, based on American precedent, it is the right thing to do. The necessity of restaurants/bars shutting down was imperative in the interest of the safety and health of the American people–workers and the public. The RRF was well-intended, but VERY poorly executed. And now it’s time to rectify the wrongs and support every eligible independent restaurant in America.

I will update/edit this post often to include specifics on how you can take action. Please email me at or add your comments and links below to support the #RestaurantRevolt and save your favorite American neighborhood restaurants. Please share far and wide. Thank you.

  1. Follow Independent Restaurant Coalition for specifics on how you can urge President Biden, US leaders, and Congress to do the right thing.
  2. It will be very interesting to see if the large (or any) grant recipients offer to give back (similar to PPP) or attempt to locally reallocate a portion of their grants now that they’re realizing that many of their neighbors and industry community members got nothing.

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Support the Restaurants Act-4 Actions You Can Take Now via Independent Restaurant Coalition

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Rules of Engagement

Posted: 2/11/2021

Shared with permission from the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC). Please visit their site and sign up for email updates. And please share this on your social media platforms and with everyone you know who cares about independent restaurants. Thank you-Patrick Maguire #ServerNotServant

2/11/21 IRC Update:

We’ve never been closer to our goal. In the first ever Senate vote on restaurant relief last week, 90 senators supported the creation of an independent restaurant and bar relief fund in the budget. Hours later, the RESTAURANTS Act was reintroduced in the House and Senate.

To ensure our bill becomes law — helping businesses survive and get millions of employees back to work — we need to secure as many cosponsors as possible. Even though we had massive support in 2020, we’re starting from scratch because there’s a new Congress, which means lawmakers have to cosponsor again even if they did so last year.

Here’s how you can make a difference in a matter of minutes by completing one (or all four!) of these actions:

Email your representatives asking them to cosponsor the RESTAURANTS Act.

Encourage your network on social media to contact their representatives and advocate for the passage of the RESTAURANTS Act by sharing the graphic linked here and the caption below.

It’s official: the RESTAURANTS Act of 2021 is on the menu in both chambers of Congress. Call your representatives today and tell them that independent restaurants, bars, and workers can’t wait any longer for direct relief: 202-224-3121 #SaveRestaurants

Call your representatives directly at 202-224-3121 and tell them why independent restaurants and bars need the RESTAURANTS Act — and how it would help save millions of jobs nationwide. Use our new advocacy guide to familiarize yourself with our latest talking points.

Forward this information to friends, family members, or colleagues and invite them to sign up for our movement to #SaveRestaurants.

Thanks for helping us reach the light at the end of the tunnel,

The IRC Team

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