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Helping staff is top priority for bar owners

Local establishments give up tips, profits to help pay employees

As a public service, Shaw Media will provide open access to information related to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) emergency. Sign up for the newsletter here

PRINCETON — When Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants to close last week to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many local businesses started offering carry-out and delivery orders for two reasons. One, to continue serving customers. Two, to keep their staff employed as best as they could afford to do so.

Skooner’z Bar and Grill in Princeton decided to take it a step further and donate all profits, made from now until when their doors can reopen, to their employees who can’t afford to live without a paycheck.

Owner Keith Brown announced the decision on the Skooner’z Facebook page last week in hopes it would generate more business. In return for giving up his profits, he’s asked his employees to step up and taken on more of the regular business duties around the restaurant so he can focus solely on building renovations.

“They got pretty excited,” he said of his employees when they heard about his offer.

“It’s kind of a team-building thing. It’s going to teach everyone to work together and a little bit more about the business. We’re teaching basic fundamentals like how to make a profit and how you lose money. It’s already been eye-opening for some of them.”

On Day 1 of the bar and restaurant closure, Brown’s employees who had other full-time jobs offered up their hours to the employees who didn’t have another job and who had families to take care of at home. These are the employees who are working hard to keep the carry-out orders flowing smoothly.

“Most of the ones in there needed the income, so they were pretty receptive to this idea,” Brown said, adding about nine of his employees will benefit for the profit sharing.

Just up the street from Skooner’z at Barrel Society, bar owner Nick Gorogianis is also doing what he can to ensure his two bartenders are going home with some sort of income during the shutdown.

Last week, Gorogianis also announced on his business’s Facebook page that all tips or donations made through selling his to-go beer, wine, spirits and gift certificates would go to his bartenders.

“They’re my family, I feel an obligation to keep them going,” he said.

He’s also having them come in a few hours a week to help with cleaning projects and whatnot to ensure they’re still getting somewhat of a paycheck.

“I don’t care if it’s only a $2 tip people give, every bit helps right now,” he said.

So far, he said customers have been “very generous.”

“I was very surprised by some of the generosity from people. It’s been very touching and heartwarming to see just how giving people can be during these tough times,” he said.

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