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Despite shutdown, restaurant and bar owners giving back to employees, others

Steven Yeng and Brittany Merrill Yeng
 Skrewball Whiskey co-founder Steve Yeng of Ocean Beach, photographed by the Union-Tribune for a profile article in 2018, has announced the company’s pledge of up to $500,000 to help laid-off bar workers.
(Courtesy of Walking Eagle Photography)

Co-founders of O.B.'s Skrewball Whiskey company are giving up to $500,000 for laid-off bar workers

Things have never been gloomier for the San Diego County restaurant and bar industry. But there’s a silver lining among the clouds.

In the wake of mass closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurant and bar owners have launched charitable and crowd-funding campaigns to support laid-off employees, and others are giving food away to seniors, shut-ins, first responders and medical workers.

Leading the pack are Steven Yeng and Brittany Merrill Yeng of Ocean Beach. The co-founders of Skrewball Whiskey Company have pledged up to $500,000 to the national Bartender’s Emergency Assistance Program and they’re planning to assemble up to 5,000 care packages to distribute to local laid-off hospitality workers.

In 2017, the couple launched their company with a peanut butter American whiskey inspired by a shot drink that Steven, 35, had developed long before in his years as a bartender. Brittany, 31, said she and her husband spent many years working in bars and restaurants (they recently sold the O.B. Noodle House) and were horrified by the mass closures that began on Saturday.

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“We were paralyzed watching this unfold,” she said. “We felt compelled to do something. It wasn’t even worth looking at our bottom line. We just did what we needed to do. We diverted money that would have gone toward building our brand. That’s not important right now. People are.”

Rather than just make a flat donation to the bartender’s emergency fund, they decided to raise awareness of the fund to encourage others to donate. On Monday, they posted a status update on Facebook and Instagram titled “SKREW COVID-19” with the promise they would donate $1 for every time the post was shared, up to $500,000.

Brittany Merrill Yeng and Steven Yeng
Brittany Merrill Yeng and Steven Yeng of Skrewball Whiskey Co. in Ocean Beach are donating up to $500,000 to a fund for laid-off bartenders.
(Courtesy of Walking Eagle Photography)

“When we set this up, my husband said, ‘we’ll get 100 shares, nobody will care,’ and within 24 hours, we got 100,000,” she said, adding that the shares have since swelled to nearly 250,000.

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The couple, who are parents to two young daughters, are also coordinating a distribution of care boxes of nonperishable items. To apply, email them at info@skrewballwhiskey.com.

Here’s a look at some of the many other projects launched in recent days:

Del Lusso Pizza in Carlsbad has been donating pizza meals to seniors, cancer patients and nursing home residents over the past week. Co-owner Walter Wong is working with Adapt Movement in Carlsbad to deliver meals to seniors and shut-in patients who can’t risk being exposed to COVID-19. www.dellussopizza.com

Flying Pig Pub & Kitchen owners Roddy and Aaron Browning have launched a $15,000 campaign, which they started with $500 of their own money, for laid-off workers at both the Flying Pig in Oceanside and Bantam’s Roost in Carlsbad. Details can be found at facebook.com/Flyingpigpubkitchenoside/.

The owners of Carlsbad restaurants Campfire and Jeune et Jolie have launched a $50,000 employee relief fund on Gofundme.com for their 142 out-of-work employees. Founder John Resnick started the fund off with a $5,000 donation. All profits from takeout sales at the restaurants are going back to employees and operating expenses. gofundme.com/f/campfire-jeune-et-jolie-employee-relief-fund

Whisknladle Hospitality, which operates five restaurants in San Diego County, is donating all profits from takeout sales at its Catania retaurant in La Jolla to laid-off workers. For information, visit www.cataniasd.com.

Ambrogio15 is donating 25 percent of its wine sales to the San Diego Food Bank. ambrogio15.com

The owner of Tahona, a mezcal and taco tasting room in Old Town, has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.com where the sale of branded T-shirts, mezcal and taco tasting experiences will be sold with all proceeds benefiting Tahona’s laid-off employees. It has already raised more than $1,400. indiegogo.com/projects/mezcal-love#

Common Stock restaurant in Hillcrest will offer a free meal to laid-off hospitality workers and is encouraging the public to make a donation to donate meals to impacted workers. Workers can find out the daily pass-phrase to use for the meal on the company’s Instagram page at instagram.com/eatcommonstock/.

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Royale restaurant in Ocean Beachhas launched a Gofundme campaign for its laid-off employees. For every contribution over $25, owners Jordan and Mariah Brownwood will give donors a beer, upon the restaurant’s reopening, and $100 donors will also get a T-shirt. They’ve raised $1,600 toward their $12,000 goal. gofundme.com/f/royale-employee-relief-fund.

Cesarina Ristorane & Pastificio, 1-year-old Italian restaurant in Point Loma owned by partners Niccolò Angius, Giuseppe Scognamiglio and Giuseppe Capasso, is donating all of its profits on takeout and delivery orders to its employees. cesarinarestaurant.com

Mister A’s and Milles Fleurs restaurants owner Bertrand Hug will give 50 percent of every gift card purchase at either location to his laid-off workers. asrestaurant.com, millefleurs.com

Madison on Park in University Height is donating 100 percent of its takeout sales to its workers. madisononpark.com

Knotty Barrel, a gastropub in East Village is the beneficiary of a Gofundme campaign that as of Friday afternoon was $35 from its $4,000 goal. All proceeds will benefit the pub’s 37 laid-off workers. gofundme.com/f/knotty-strong

Coin-Op Game Room, a multi-unit company with locations in North Park and the Gaslamp Quarter, is creating a food bank for all laid-off employees with proceeds from a $10,000 Gofundme campaign, which was more than halfway to its goal on Friday. https://www.gofundme.com/f/coinop-game-room-employee-fund

San Diego Dining Group has been serving free lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily since Wednesday to first responders and medical personnel at all of its locations, which include Greystone the Steakhouse, Saltwater, Butcher’s Cut Steakhouse, Osetra, the Fishouse, Oseteria Panevino and Farmer’s Table. They hope to carry on the tradition indefinitely if the public will support the program via a Gofundme campaign with a $20,000 goal. gofundme.com/f/covid19-relief-san-diego-dining-group.

Seven Grands Whiskey Bar owners have launched a relief fund for the North Park bar’s laid-off workers at gofundme.com/f/seven-grand-san-diego.

Azuki Sushi and Hachi Ramen owner Shihomi Borillo has launched a $100,000 Gofundme campaign for the more than 70 employees laid off last week at the two San Diego restaurants. So far, $4,300 has been raised. gofundme.com/f/azuki-amp-hachi-staff-disaster-relief-fund

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Formula Marketing has launched a general relief fund for laid-off industry workers at gofundme.com/f/emergency-coronavirus-fund.


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