Fund started to help out-of-work quarantined restaurant staff


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A new fund for restaurant workers has begun in order to quickly get money into the hands of staff who are quarantined and out-of-work after testing positive for COVID-19.

This comes as at least a dozen restaurants have temporarily closed after staff members were exposed to the virus.

“We need to do something to help these people,” said Co-Founder of Capital Region Restaurant Fund Dominik Purnomo.

The fund is Purnomo and restaurateur Jason Pierce’s second effort to help workers in the restaurant industry, following Feed Albany.

Purnomo estimates there are about 100 cooks, servers and other restaurant staff who are currently under quarantine after being exposed to the virus.

“They have families to provide for, they have rent to pay for, they, you know, have bills to pay. We wanted to make sure there was a rapid way we could get funds to them as quickly as possible,” Purnomo said.

The co-founder of the fund said leaving the industry due to the risk of exposure is not an easy option for workers.

As restaurants struggle to stay open due to rising infection rates, owner Heidi Knoblauch isn’t taking the risk of staying open. She’s shutting down Plum Oyster Bar until April.

“I think restaurant staff are use to pivoting, but I think this year we are exhausted from pivoting,” Knoblauch said.

Until her restaurant reopens, she’s changed her business model to a cocktail club. It’s something she said she’s found success in.

“Trying to come up with those pivots is really critical to the success of any business, any small business, but right now it’s really important,” Knoblauch said.

Until things get closer to normal, Purnomo said it’s up to those in the restaurant industry to take care of each other.

“Without help from the outside, from the government, there won’t be any industry left on the other side of a second shutdown,” Purnomo said.

More than 20 percent of restaurants have shut down since the start of the pandemic.

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