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Virtual 'tip jar' opens up for out-of-work bartenders, servers in Northern Berkshire

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NORTH ADAMS — There is a growing movement in Northern Berkshire, like in other regions of the nation, to raise money to help servers and bartenders who suddenly found themselves without a job.

The first goal of the GoFundMe campaign — the Northern Berkshire Tip Jar — was a modest $5,000. So far it has increased the goal twice, up to $20,000, and by Wednesday, 94 donors had generated nearly $18,000 out of concern for their favorite restaurants and servers.

"They smile, make us feel welcome and make our evenings enjoyable, even when they're having a lousy day," said Mark Gold, a local attorney and one of three people to make the funding campaign a reality. "This is a way of saying that has not gone unnoticed."

Jason Dohaney, who along with Julia Bowen, is one of the other instigators of the campaign, said restaurant work is difficult and low-paying, and typically does not provide much of a cushion for times like this.

"What they're facing may be long-term unemployment," Dohaney said. "When you live paycheck to paycheck, that can create a lot of suffering. And rents are due for a lot of people, so we were hoping to get some money to them by April 1."

The GoFundMe page can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/north-berkshire-tip-jar.

At the page, donors can specify to which restaurant crew they wish to donate, and even which crew member would receive the donation.

General donations, Gold said, will go to the restaurant owners to distribute to the crews.

The campaign is aimed at local, family-owned gratuity-based restaurants, Dohaney said.

"People who have lived here for a long time and eat out regularly get to know these folks pretty well — they are an important part of our community," Dohaney said.

Gold noted that restaurants are not the only segment suffering under the outbreak shut-down, but they are certainly among the hardest hit.

"We can't help everyone, but that doesn't mean we can't help anyone," Gold said.

He said that, on a busy night, restaurant work is hard, and demands detail-oriented, fast-moving people with a knack for making others feel good. It's a physically, intellectually and emotionally challenging job, and every single shift can be exhausting.

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"There's much more work that goes into it than you can see from the table," Gold said. "I can't imagine the pressure of having to create a perfect evening for every customer, every night. And now all those talented lives have been upended — I felt like we had a responsibility to pitch in."

Until the shutdown order, John Campoli was a bartender at Public Eat + Drink. He said that he is lucky because his significant other is still employed, but most of his associates are on their own.

"For them, it's much harder," he said. "For some of them, this was their only source of income, and some of those are single parents. Not being able to go to work, not knowing when or if we'll be coming back, wondering about not paying some bills — it's a scary time."

In normal times, he said, if you lost your restaurant job, you would simply go to another restaurant to find work. But today, all the restaurants are closed. The whole industry is in an artificial stand-still.

"We're told we're out of work, and nobody else is open," Campoli said. "So there's nothing you can do."

For now, Campoli is the stay-at-home dad for is two kids.

"I know we miss seeing some of our regular customers that you see nearly every week," Campoli said. "It's like your second family. But I doubt this thing is going away anytime soon."

He said that when he heard about the Tip Jar campaign, he felt gratified.

"Me and my fellow co-workers are very thankful for what they're doing," Campoli said. "To know that we're appreciated that much is pretty humbling."

Dianne Cutillo and husband Bernie Pinsonnault donated to the Tip Jar.

"We donated to four restaurants that we frequent," Cutillo said. "The minute it was announced that restaurants had to close, I thought about the staff, because they depend on tips to live. I was a waitress, so I know how important it is to pay the rent."

Cutillo implored others to do the same.

"If you're blessed enough to still have income during these difficult times, do it for the workers who take care of you when you dine out," she said. "And in the meantime, help the restaurants stay in business by ordering takeout or delivery."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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