COLORADO SPRINGS — A new program, Rally for Restaurants COS, in Colorado Springs aims to help local restaurants by buying meals from them for employees who have been laid off or otherwise negatively affected by pandemic-related restrictions on businesses.
Even though El Paso County is allowed 25% indoor capacity at restaurants, it’s hard for local eateries to maintain a profit and anything but impossible to keep the same number of people employed as they did at this time last year.
For those still with a job, their paychecks don’t match what they used to earn either.
“In a way, it’s more challenging for those I do keep on staff, working with limited hours, working with limited staff, and having those people need to pay their bills,” said Allie Johnstone, the manager at Bird Tree Cafe.
Operating as a coffee shop, restaurant, and cocktail lounge, the Cafe usually has a larger staff of diverse talent to meet the different concepts.
“We opened in the January time frame of 2020, so quite a year to start a business,” Johnstone said. “The shutdowns, the reopenings, the to-go’s. There’s just been a lot of different variables and aspects that not everyone, by any means, was set up or prepared for.”
Bird Tree Cafe is one of several local restaurants taking part and providing food for Rally for Restaurants COS. Donations to the Pikes Peak United Way Emergency Relief Fund pay for 300 meals by four different local restaurants each week. Employees who have been laid off or hours cut can get tickets for to get the meals on Mondays and Wednesdays at springsnative.com/rally-for-restaurants/.
“It’s giving them that extra boost, whether it’s a morale boost and that money is helping them go on, or if it’s money that’s truly going to help them go an extra week longer. It’s really great that we can do that,” said Meagan Thomas, the founder, and organizer of the initiative and founder of the Springs Native, the local website highlighting businesses in the area.
At $15 per meal paid for by the fund, it’s money that can be crucial for staying afloat and more than Johnstone has seen even on her busiest days during the pandemic.
It provides us with sales or an income that we haven’t seen in months. Months and months,” she said.
Donations to support the program can be made at the Pikes Peak United Way website.
For Thomas, who has seen the struggles of the restaurant industry first hand, it’s a way to give back to the businesses who have given so much when they were able to in the years before COVID-19.
“The hospitality industry is the first to give back, but they’re the last to take back,” she said. “At the end of the day, if we don’t support our hospitality industry and our restaurants in Colorado Springs through this pandemic, a lot of these places aren’t going to be open.”