by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What Politicians Get Wrong about Us

What Politicians Get Wrong about Our Industry

by David Klemt

Restaurant and bar with exterior windows open

It still stings that the 43 senators chose to vote against replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

The fact that four senators didn’t vote at all on S.4008 is nearly as insulting and painful.

Now, while all the “nay” votes came from Republican senators, I’m not here to bash one party in particular. Four Republicans voted “yea,” as did two Independents.

Unfortunately, given how hostile Democrats and Republicans in Congress seem to be, it’s difficult to be objective. Right now, it appears that the RRF was left to die a slow death because many—not all, of course—Republicans in power don’t want their Democrat peers to “win” at anything.

To be used as political pawns and be left out in the cold… It’s a bitter pill to swallow.


Too many politicians, it seems, view restaurants and bars as they would other types of businesses. Perhaps the perceived success of national and global brands paint the picture that independent venues and small chains don’t need any help.

More disappointingly, maybe politicians, from local lawmakers to state representatives, take our business’ role for granted.

Look at the history of restaurants and bars, of hospitality. Think about the rich history of hospitality in America alone, let alone globally.

Yes, independent restaurants and bars are small businesses. But like so many small businesses in so many towns across the country, they’re so much more.

Restaurants and bars are pillars, cornerstones of the communities they serve. These are businesses that welcome people in, treat them like family. They’re there for them as they move through their lives.

People who were seemingly at odds with another routinely found common ground over a bite and a sip. More often than not, that’s still the case.

Operators and their teams give back to their communities through food drives, quietly feeding those in need, and finding other ways to give back.

And they look out for their communities.


Last week, the team at a cafe in the Bronx called the Chipper Truck helped rescue a woman from an alleged hostage situation.

Permitted by her assailant to place a food order via Grubub, the victim thought quickly and sent a life-saving note with her order:

“Please call the police… don’t make it obvious.”

A staff member read the note in the “additional instructions” section of the order and called one of the owners. Nobody at the Chipper Truck knew if the situation was real but they chose to err on the side of caution.

When the alleged assailant—who was arrested and charged with a list of serious offenses—opened the door for the Grubhub order, he was met with police officers.

A Facebook post from the cafe addressing the situation read, in part, “I’ve often heard of this happening but never thought it would happen to us. Thankfully we were open and able to help her.”

It’s terrifying that this happens enough that the cafe owners hear about it “often.” But it’s telling of the role restaurants and bars play in their communities that they’ve saved multiple lives.

This is to say nothing of the restaurants and bars that have put coded safety systems in place to help patrons who find themselves in danger.

No Such Thing as “Just” a Restaurant or Bar

There isn’t a restaurant or bar out there that’s “only” a restaurant or “only” a bar.

Every one is a source for food, for socializing, for an escape from the stresses of life. Restaurants and bars are committed to service and sacrifice.

They’re pillars of their communities, the cornerstones that play important roles in our everyday lives and the special moments as well.

Perhaps our politicians, local and otherwise, need to a reminder. Restaurants and bars play crucial roles in the lives of the people politicians are supposed to represent.

Too many politicians claim to support small businesses while their actions and votes prove otherwise. Talk, as we all know, is cheap.

Restaurants are not “just” restaurants. Bars are not “just” bars. We deserve better.

Image: Scott Webb on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

How Operators Can Support Ukraine

How Operators Can Support Ukraine

by David Klemt

Ukraine flag flying against blue sky, perspective shot

It’s normal to feel like there’s not much we can do as we watch in horror as Russia invades Ukraine, but there are ways to show support.

NATO alliance countries are struggling in their responses to Russia. A country with thousands of nuclear arms invaded a sovereign nation without such weapons. The response from NATO nations must be measured and de-escalate, not provoke. Consider that Russia seemingly threatened Sweden and Finland, and put its nuclear deterrence forces on “high alert.”

So, it’s understandable that the rest of us aren’t sure how much of a difference we can make.

However, restaurants, bars, hotels, and other hospitality businesses do have the power to help.

Zirkova Vodka

John and Katherine Vellinga founded Zirkova Vodka around 2016. Initially, the brand was named Slava Vodka.

The Vellingas are Canadians. However, they consider Ukraine their home country. In fact, the two worked in Ukraine for about five years.

During their time in Ukraine, the two worked with brewers and winemakers. Over the course of those five years, John and Katherine decided to create an ultra-premium Ukrainian vodka.

It’s important to note, however, that Zirkova’s mission isn’t simply to create world-class vodka. You can read their full mission statement here.

In part, the brand’s mission statement reads: “Built in the DNA of the brand is a deep-rooted belief in the goodness of humanity, an abiding commitment to freedom and human rights for all.”

Zirkova’s foundation One+Together has raised money for human rights and humanitarian throughout Canada, Ukraine, and New York City.

Now, the brand is donating 100 percent of profits generated from sales of Zirkova at the LCBO to Ukrainian humanitarian funds.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by ZIRKOVA VODKA (@zirkovavodka)

It should also be noted that the province of British Columbia has banned the sale and import of Russian liquor products.


On the topic of donations, operators can support a number of charities that focus on helping the people of Ukraine.

For example, World Central Kitchen. WCK has already mobilized, setting up in Poland to help Ukrainians who have had to flea their homes.

The non-profit organization also has a relief team on the way to Romania as well. Donations to WCK can be made via this link.

If you have a question about the legitimacy of a charity, look it up on a site like Charity Navigator. Unfortunately, bad actors (scumbags) latch onto crises to scam people out of their money.

Rejecting Russian Vodka

Some restaurants and bars are making more assertive statements via the products they’re now willing to sell…or no longer sell.

There are restaurants and bars emptying their inventories of Russian vodkas by dumping them out.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Eric Gladstone (@ecgladstone)

The above post is just one example of operators, restaurant workers, and bar teams taking a stand.

In addition, there are operators seeking to add Ukrainian products to their menus. Will these businesses ever carry Russian products again? It’s far too early to tell, of course.

Individual operators will have to decide if refusing to sell Russian products is the right decision for them. If they choose that path, they’ll need to decide if doing so quietly or publicly is the best approach.

In simplistic terms, too many politicians and leaders are beholden to corporate money and influence. Realistically, as regards Putin, the opposite seems true.

Still, impacting the bottom lines of Russian companies, millionaires and billionaires may have some impact on Putin, though that’s unlikely to lead to peace any time soon.

Interestingly, reports indicate that at least two Russian billionaires have called for peace in Ukraine.

Safe Communities

It’s alarmingly easy for strong emotions to drive just about anyone to make harmful decisions. Fear, sorrow, frustration, and anger are powerful.

We must all remember something incredibly important: The Russian people are not to blame for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

One person—along with his inner circle of sycophants and enablers—is to blame: Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Feeling powerless to help the Ukrainian people can lead to feelings of anger. It’s crucial that we not allow violence or harassment of Russian people in our communities.

We can support Ukraine without harming Russian people. Restaurants and bars are pillars of their communities, and keeping people safe is non-negotiable.

Some of us may react to feelings of anger, fear, and frustration by lashing out. We can’t let that lead to violence in our streets.

Do not tolerate harassment or violence in or around your business, and make it clear your business is safe for all guests. The last thing we need now is more divisiveness, harm or fear.

Image: Daria Volkova on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

US Operators, Take Action Today

US Operators, Take Action Today

by David Klemt

Chef doing prep alone in kitchen

Today is the day to let Congress know the clock has run out on our patience for them act on replenishing the RRF.

In all honesty, the industry’s tolerance for governmental inaction on the RRF ran out last year. Right around the time, I’d say, the RRF application portal closed, leaving almost 200,000 applicants without crucial grants. As a reminder, the portal closed after just 21 days of launching.

Today is the National Day of Action to Save Restaurants. The Independent Restaurant Coalition is leading the charge for this campaign.

To participate, follow the IRC on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Additionally, click here to sign up for their emails. Spread the word and encourage staff, guests, your family members, and friends to take part as well.

Below you’ll find more details for taking action to #SaveRestaurants and #SaveBars today and moving forward.

Industry Advocacy

The IRC has been fighting and advocating for the industry since the start of the pandemic. Today, they’re asking owners, operators, workers in all segments of the industry, communities, and guests to throw their support behind this crucial fight.

So, today is the day to inundate your representatives with phone calls. Dial this number to reach the Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121. The IRC provides state-specific fact sheets, which can be found here.

For an example of what you’ll find on a state’s fact sheet, here are some details for Nevada:

  • The leisure and hospitality industry accounts for 87.6 percent of all jobs lost in the state.
  • In Nevada, the industry is worth $9.9 billion, with 5,980 restaurants and bars throughout the state.

Those are just two pertinent facts about the industry in Nevada.

Along with phone calls, people should contact their representatives via email. Follow this link to email Congress and tell them to replenish the RRF.

Send a Message

Of course, social media will also play an important part in today’s campaign. Flooding Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other channels with #SaveRestaurants, #SaveBars, and #ReplenishRRF should get Congress’ attention in a very public, very newsworthy way.

Click here to access the IRC’s social media and website toolkit.

It’s time to let Congress know we’re doing waiting for action. We’re done with the lip service, platitudes, and empty words of support. And we’re done with the broken promises, disarray, and inaction.

Personally, I plan on once again letting my state representatives know that I’m watching. Those who don’t do their jobs and help replenish the RRF won’t be receiving my vote. I can’t support those who won’t support us. Whether you want to send that message is up to you.

Today, however, make your voice heard and send at least this message: We demand Congress acts now.

Image: Rohan G on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Build Back Better…Without Restaurants?

Build Back Better…Without Restaurants or Bars?

by David Klemt

Abandoned bar or restaurant

The Build Back Better Act was passed by the House last Friday without the inclusion of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act.

For those keeping count—me, for instance—the RRF Replenishment Act has seen zero movement since June.

We’re now six months without RRF Replenishment progress. The RRF application portal closed on May, 24.

To put it bluntly, the House once again failed our industry.

Of the $1.7 trillion dollars in the Build Back Better Act, zero are earmarked to replenish the RRF.

Applicants in Limbo

According to the National Restaurant Association, there are at least 177,000 RRF applicants awaiting grants.

Unless the RRF is replenished, those applicants will receive nothing.

For six months now, two bills seeking $60 billion to replenish the RRF have languished. Those bills are the aforementioned RRF Replenishment Act and the ENTREE Act.

The former was introduced by a bipartisan group of representatives and senators. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced the latter.

Unfortunately, the chance to replenish the RRF via a unanimous consent motion was shot down in August. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to $43 billion in emergency funding, killing the RRF.

At this point, it’s difficult to take any statement of support for our industry from members of Congress seriously.

NRA Speaks Out

The same day that the Build Back Better Act passed, NRA vice president Sean Kennedy released a statement.

“We are disappointed that the House passed the Build Back Better Act without including the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act… Passing this bill without including RRF replenishment leaves thousands of small business restaurants teetering on the brink of closure,” reads Kennedy’s statement.

Kennedy also points to specific elements of the Build Back Better Act that can cause further harm to operators and our industry.

In particular, Kennedy states that the NRA “specifically asked Congress to not pass any legislation that would harm restaurants as they rebuild.” Instead, the Build Back Better Act imposes new taxes on small businesses, including restaurants and bars.

Per Kennedy, “this bill newly applies the net investment income tax (NIIT) to active business income for pass-through businesses.”

Read Kennedy’s statement in full here.

It’s possible that the Senate will make changes to the bill. And it’s possible that replenishing the RRF will be among those changes. If that happens, the bill will be sent back to the House, further delaying the crucial assistance our industry needs.

Oh, and the deadline to avoid a government shutdown is December 3.

To tell your lawmakers to replenish the RRF, click here. I know I’ve asked you to do this several times. As frustrating as it’s getting, we need to stick together and keep up the pressure.

Image: Wokandapix from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

How to Help NOLA’s Hospitality Workers

How to Help NOLA’s Hospitality Workers

by David Klemt

Old bar sign hanging in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana

Hurricane Ida has left hospitality workers in New Orleans displaced and without work, stability or a sense of normalcy.

When Ida first made landfall, the storm was designated Category 4, meaning winds were between 130 and 156 miles per hour. The storm “weakened” to Category 2 with windspeeds up to 105 MPH.

When Ida hit Louisiana Sunday, August 29, it did so 16 years to the day that Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.

Multiple sources have reported New Orleans residents as saying Ida’s battering of the city felt as though it lasted longer and was stronger than Katrina.

Sadly, the damage and horrific memories of Katrina continue to reverberate throughout New Orleans to this day. Social media posts and news stories reveal residents of the city are already afraid they’ll be abandoned by the rest of the country.

We can’t allow that to happen.


We won’t know the true toll Hurricane Ida has taken on New Orleans for some time. In fact, we won’t know just how severely ravaged the country is—from the South to the Northeast—for weeks, if not months.

Currently, the loss of life seems to be much, much lower in comparison to the casualties from Katrina.

However, the entirety of New Orleans lost power after Ida struck. The private company that provides power to New Orleans, Entergy, reported one million power outages.

Some outages have been fixed. But tens of thousands of residents remain without power—and therefore without air conditioning.

Per the Entergy website, it may take until September 8 for power to be restored in most neighborhoods. And that’s just in New Orleans. Cities and towns in parishes throughout the state of Louisiana may be without power for weeks.

Of course, power outages are just one issue. As Tales of the Cocktail CEO Eileen Wayner explained on an emergency episode of the Bar Hacks podcast, we won’t know about the breadth of Ida’s destruction for weeks, at the earliest.

We have no way yet of knowing about the true extent of: evacuees being relocated safely; access to clean water and food; property damage and loss; infrastructure damage; hospitalizations; and the toll on the city’s economy.

Disaster Relief

Tens of thousands of New Orleans residents have been displaced. The same goes for cities throughout Louisiana.

That means tens of thousands of hospitality industry workers are unable to return to their jobs. These workers, part of our hospitality family, must now navigate evacuation and survival without their steady sources of income.

In fact, they don’t even know if they’ll have a place of business to return to when they’re able to get back into their homes.

Responding immediately, Tales of the Cocktail has partnered with several organizations to provide relief to New Orleans hospitality workers.

These partners include:

For now, Wayner says the best way to support New Orleans hospitality workers is to donate to the above organizations.

Additionally, Wayner and Tales of the Cocktail board member Neal Bodenheimer plan to provide more information via Instagram Live on Wednesday, September 8 at 9:00 AM CST. Click here to make sure you’re following Tales on IG.

One of the keys to helping New Orleans and the city’s hospitality workers recover is to, as Wayner says, “keep the volume up.” So, please share their posts and the posts of their relief partners.

Image: Mary Hammel on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

State of the RRF: By the Numbers

State of the RRF: By the Numbers

by David Klemt

Wad of dollar bills with red rubber band

The “tale of the tape” of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund tells a clear story: the RRF needs an injection of tens of billions of dollars.

Clearly, $28.6 was nowhere near enough to award every eligible restaurant and bar with a grant.

In fact, the RRF would need at least another $50 billion to serve all eligible applicants.

The Numbers

First, the Small Business Administration is to be commended for setting up the RRF portal, making the application process clear, and handling applications well.

However, there’s one glaring issue with the RRF and the review and awards process. I’ll get to that in the next section.

Per the National Restaurant Association, more than 362,000 applications were submitted via the RRF portal.

In total, the applications add up to $75 billion in grant requests. Again, the RRF was funded by the government with $28.6 billion. It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that the fund was severely underfunded.


Last week, a number of Republican members of Congress sent a letter to the SBA. The gist of their message was that the RRF’s closure was premature. Therefore, the group concluded, non-priority applicants wouldn’t receive grants or even have the opportunity to apply for grants.

In the letter, which can be reviewed here, the authors also took shots at Democrats, the Biden Administration, and undocumented immigrants.

Setting politics aside, the announcement of the RRF’s portal closure was inarguably premature. The application process was first opened on Monday, May 3. For the first 21 days, the SBA announced that while all eligible entities could apply, only priority applicants would be processed and awarded grants.

However, the RRF portal closed to applications on Monday, May 24…21 days after it first opened. The members of Congress who penned the letter to the SBA have a point: the SBA closed the RRF portal after only operating within the priority window.

Now What?

There’s no other way to put this: The RRF needs more funding.

Essentially, it needs twice the funding it had when it was first seeded. There’s zero guarantee that Congress will address this matter, but at least a handful of lawmakers are aware of the dire situation.

Two weeks ago, the NRA launched a petition urging the government to replenish the RRF. Of course, the RRF also needs to be reopened for applications, and the application process needs to be open to all eligible applicants.

There’s no promise the petition will achieve the desired result but we must do something. Click here to sign the petition and tell Congress the RRF needs to be replenished and reopened.

Image: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels