The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the hospitality industry especially hard over the past two years, but there is good news around the corner for seven local LGBTQ- and ally-owned restaurants.
On April 7 at Harold’s Restaurant Bar & Terrance, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and Grubhub will use funds from the NGLCC & Grubhub Community Impact Grant Program to award grants to Harold’s, Sugar Rush Westheimer, City Cellars HTX, Shoot The Moon, BUDDY’S, Pho 518, and Momma’s at Sengelmann Hall.
The grants are expected to range from $5,000 to $100,000, according to NGLCC. Last July, NGLCC partnered with Grubhub’s Donate the Change program, which raised millions of dollars by asking diners to round up their order total and donate the difference, with a matching donation from Grubhub, to support LGBTQ-owned and ally eateries.
“America’s 1.4 million LGBTQ+ business owners have demonstrated incredible resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now we can help them to recover back stronger than ever,” said Justin Nelson, NGLCC co-founder and president.
Like some of the NGLCC’s more than 50 affiliate LGBTQ chambers of commerce nationwide, the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce, helped spread the word about NGLCC & Grubhub Community Impact Grant Program and will reward any Houston recipient with a free one-year Chamber membership.
“I am beyond excited to be able to present these grants to our local businesses,” says Houston’s LGBT Chamber co-founder, CEO, and president Tammi Wallace. “And I am so grateful to Grubhub.”
The food-delivery company’s vice president of brand and creative marketing, Jessica Burns, said they were thrilled to give back to the LGBTQ community, which had shown “incredible strength and support to those in need throughout the pandemic.”
LGBT Chamber member Alli Jarrett, whose restaurant Harold’s delivers through Grubhub, says she applied last September and recently learned Harold’s would be a recipient—a welcome boost after the COVID restrictions severely impacted the restaurant’s income.
“On behalf of our entire staff at Harold’s, I am humbled and full of gratitude to be a Community Impact Grant Recipient from Grubhub and the NGLCC,” Jarrett says. “Since opening in 2013, one of our pillars is to give back to the community. We give not in order to receive anything back, so it is especially gratifying that we would be recognized as making a difference in the lives of others. None of us could have ever predicted this pandemic would be here two years later, creating massive disruptions to so many—physically, emotionally, and financially. This grant will help us in many ways, and I’m extremely appreciative and feeling blessed to be selected as one of the businesses in the fourth-largest city in the United States.”
“Although we are managing things a bit easier [as we] start our third year, the effects of COVID are still here with staffing, supply chain, inflation, child care, and the physical- and mental-health issues,” she says.
“Our management team and I regularly met in the weeks prior to the governor shutting down restaurants, so we did our best with the ever-changing rules. We began preparing our staff to make drastic changes, and we went from 32 staff members to 7 overnight. We continued to feed any staff members who needed assistance, and did our best to be a resource for them and their families. It would have probably been easier to close, but we rolled up our sleeves and began pivoting every day.”
Like so many restaurants, Harold’s had not done much takeout and delivery before the pandemic, and they quickly had to pivot when the shutdown banned indoor dining. Jarrett and her dining-room manager personally delivered orders, and the human connection they had with customers who saw them delivering food reassured them that the neighborhood wanted them to survive.
Harold’s found ways to better use existing technology with online ordering, created a mini grocery store in the tap room bar with eggs, milk, and bread, as well as household and dry goods to deliver to patrons who were scared to go to grocery stores. They also helped the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber start ChamberCares to feed frontline healthcare workers, police, and firefighters. And they worked with the Memorial Hermann Foundation, Orion EMS (a private ambulance service), and Houston Restaurant Weeks (the city-wide fundraiser for the Houston Food Bank).
“In 2020, our revenue from March to July was down 60 percent, and we finished the year down 29 percent compared to 2019,” Jarrett says. “We started 2021 full of optimism, and then along came the winter freeze that shut us down for a week, more COVID, and a hurricane named Nicholas. I was very pleased with our overall year in 2021, given all of the disruptions. The end of 2021 and the start of 2022 was much like last year with Omicron, but we are pushing through. I am very thankful for the Community Impact Grant!”
For more on the April 7 event and to register, visit bit.ly/3qiD2qX.