With a staggering number of service workers laid off or
furloughed, some hotels have turned to
crowdfunding to help them.
Gofundme has seen a major surge in activity during the Covid-19 crisis. The company said coronavirus-related
campaigns on the site jumped 60%, from 22,000 to 35,000 campaigns, between
March 20 and March 24.
Lifestyle hospitality group SBE launched a Gofundme
on March 20, with founder and CEO Sam Nazarian kicking off the campaign with a
$65,000 contribution and the company promising to match every additional dollar
Proceeds from SBE’s Gofundme will be used to create care
packages for employees in Los Angeles and Miami. Packages are to include nonperishable
food items, household essentials and a $50 gift card. SBE said it “aims to make
these packages available every week as long as possible.”
To date, SBE had raised approximately $113,400 of its
The majority of SBE’s restaurants and entertainment venues in
North America are temporarily closed and several of its Miami-area hotels are,
too (Delano South Beach, SLS South Beach, Shore Club, SLS LUX Brickell and Hyde
Midtown). The SLS Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas is also shuttered.
Boutique hotel brand The Standard launched The Standard
Stands Together Relief Fund on Gofundme on March 22, with proceeds to “benefit and support team members who have lost
their jobs due to the effect of Covid-19.” The Standard recently closed its New
York, Miami and London hotels.
“Our employees, like many others in the service industry,
tend to live paycheck to paycheck,” said Standard Hotels CEO Amar Lalvani in a
letter. “Most are hourly, often relying on tips. Many are immigrants without
family infrastructure here. Few have savings. Most will not be able to pay rent
next month. Without relief, many will leave our cities in a few months
As of March 31, The Standard had raised around $110,400 of
its $200,000 goal.
Boutique chainlet Ace Hotel Group launched the Ace Family
achieving nearly $22,000 of its $500,000 goal since launching March 22.
The company said it has temporarily suspended operations at hotels
in New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, London and Palm Springs, Calif.
New York-based LTH Hospitality, which operates the Vine and
L’Amico restaurants at the Kimpton Hotel Eventi, has established an Employee
Relief Fund on Gofundme.
The hotel and both restaurants have closed.
Similarly, Washington D.C.-based chef Colin Clark has rolled
out a Gofundme
to support furloughed employees at his Via Sophia and Earth N Eats restaurants.
Via Sophia is in D.C.’s Hamilton Hotel.
“People who work in restaurants almost universally lack the ‘work-life
balance’ thing,” said Clark in a statement. “Whether by choice or necessity,
and usually it’s at least a little of both, we live to work, and nothing is
more brutal than a slow shift or a slow month or being stuck at home.”
According to Pam Loprest, a senior fellow and labor
economist for the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute, the
proliferation of employee relief funds indicates that many service workers live
“so close to the edge.”
“A very large percentage of hospitality workers are lower-wage
workers,” said Loprest. “It’s commendable that employers are trying to help
their employees, but it’s also evidence that so many people, even in what was a
good economy, have no fallback. We talk about businesses not having any profit
margins, but a lot of families don’t have any margins at all.”
David Madland, a senior fellow and a senior adviser to the
American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress, echoed Loprest’s
concerns, calling the state of hospitality workforce “precarious.”
“There’s research [from the Federal Reserve] that shows that
about 40% of Americans would have trouble coming up with just $400 in an
emergency,” said Madland. “On the one hand, it is heartwarming that companies
are actively trying to help their employees in times of need. On the other
hand, however, this is shocking, and [shows that] the conditions for workers in
many industries, especially the service sector and travel industry, are totally