When restaurants and bars had to shift to strictly carry-out and delivery as per Gov. Larry Hogan’s mandates, countless service workers were laid off from their jobs for an indefinite amount of time.
The Frederick Virtual Tip Jar, a database of Frederick County service workers’ Venmo and Cashapp accounts, has been spreading around Facebook to help those who have been laid off.
It is unclear who started the Frederick Virtual Tip Jar, but the database’s description says the idea is based off other virtual tip jars that have been created throughout the D.C. area.
Justin Gosnell, a bartender at Brewer’s Alley, was laid off on Monday following Gov. Hogan’s announcement. However, he was later asked to come back in to help with take-out orders.
Gosnell said that the Frederick community has been very helpful, and while carry-out isn’t making up for the sales the restaurant would have had if things were operating as normal, customers have been leaving very generous tips – he received a $50 tip on a $30 check a few days ago. Gosnell then splits those tips among his other coworkers at Brewer’s Alley and uses some of the cash to get groceries for them.
“To be honest, the people in Frederick, it’s hard to even put into words how generous people have been,” Gosnell said. “It’s pretty crazy the amount of people that come and just said outright that they came to support Brewer’s, and Brewer’s is their favorite restaurant.”
Gosnell has also noted that any tips he receives through the Virtual Tip Jar he will also divide among the Brewer’s Alley employees.
“It’s nice to get the call to come back to work, but there’s also a lot of coworkers and friends who didn’t get that call, that aren’t doing well right now,” Gosnell said. “So I personally felt obligated to share that around with everybody.”
Julia Collins, a bartender at Belle’s Sports Bar and Grill feels similarly, although she doesn’t know how worried to be about her bills yet, knowing that the government has put mandates in place to prevent evictions and power shutoffs for the time-being.
“I’m one of those people that thinks that after 15 days everything will be right as rain,” Collins said. “Maybe I shouldn’t think that way, I don’t know. But I’m trying to stay on the positive side.”
Anthony Esper, who worked at Nido’s, also takes comfort in the fact that some services can’t be shut off. But he knows that eventually his bills will catch up with him. And while he’s hopeful for a stimulus check from the government, he thinks that would only be a short term solution.
“I know many of us will have a hard time digging ourselves out of the hole that this predicament has put us all in,” Esper said.
Esper has 4-year-old twins to support, and was also out of work for the few weeks leading up to the closure of restaurants. Nido’s had closed for three weeks for renovations, and was planning on opening up again in a week or two. But now that’s been put on hold.
Collins was notified on Monday that she was out of a job, as Belle’s was not going to stay open for carry-out. Her girlfriend had also lost her job at a D.C.-area Marriott a week prior, so they are both temporarily without income.
Collins, like many of the people signed up for the Virtual Tip Jar, does not have paid time off or healthcare through her job. While she noted that Belle’s is a small business, she said that she hasn’t gotten many benefits working at corporate restaurants, either.
“This business is just not designed to make a career out of it, unfortunately,” she said.
Many of the people who have signed up for the Virtual Tip Jar left notes in their submission giving details about their situation – everything from single parents to a woman who is expecting a baby in three weeks.
Amanda Zaykoski, a 22-year-old student who attends Carroll County Community College, is now jobless. Her two places of work, Linganore Wine Cellars and a physical therapy office, have both closed their doors.
“I have bills to pay and tuition to pay. This coronavirus is very scary considering I don’t know how long I’m going to be out of work or without a paycheck,” Zaykoski wrote in an email. “Is it going to be a few week or a few months, because paying for school isn’t going to be possible without an income.”
While Gosnell is concerned about his own wellbeing and that of other service workers, he is also concerned for the restaurants themselves.
“My biggest concern right now is just making sure the businesses can see it through,” Gosnell said. “There’s so much that goes into the cost of obviously operating these businesses on a month-to-month basis.”
Esper hopes that everyone can band together to help one another.
“I think we need to look out for each other,” Esper said. “And I’m hoping we can get through this.”