Together we are facing an event unlike anything we’ve experienced in our lifetime.  Despite the hardship that many people are experiencing throughout the world, it’s truly inspiring to hear about those who are making a difference.  The brave and dedicated men and women of the medical community are the frontline heroes in this war against the Coronavirus.  And while we are understandably focused on those who are fighting for their very lives, there are countless millions, in this country alone, who are suffering financially…and the beverage community has rallied to meet this challenge to help those whose need within our industry is most urgent.

Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits (SGWS) and Beam Suntory have stepped up to answer the call in a big way with a one-million-dollar donation to the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) Foundation Emergency Assistance Program. The program was founded specifically to support the bar and restaurant community and provide financial aid and other resources for workers who are most impacted by COVID-19, with the closure of bars and restaurants across the country. 

Beam Suntory President and CEO Albert Baladi explains this generous act of philanthropy:

“The people of Beam Suntory and our colleagues at Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits are passionate about helping support the bartenders, restaurant workers and their families whose lives have been turned upside down by the global pandemic. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary actions. We are proud to support the trade community and their livelihoods, as they are part of our extended Beam Suntory family, and we are fortunate to be part of an industry where so many companies are uniting to assist our communities in this unprecedented battle.” 

Regarding how the idea of donating a million dollars between Beam Suntory and Southern Glazer’s came about, a Beam spokesperson added: 

“As we actively manage the response to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, Beam Suntory (and SGWS) determined to support the communities where our people live and work. During this challenging time, we are working to support our extended family in the trade community. Suntory’s North America Leadership Team (along with the top brass at SGWS) decided to respond to the precipitous closure of restaurants and bars, and redeployed expenditures to support their on-trade partners.

“The United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG) Foundation Emergency Assistance Program and the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation (who collectively have the network in place) support the bar and restaurant community and are providing financial aid and other resources for workers who are most impacted by COVID-19 as a result of restaurant and bar closures across the country. We felt that these two organizations covered the broadest reach of hospitality professionals in the US.”

No horn tooting or self-congratulatory pats on the back. Just a commitment to give back during this time of crisis. This deserves effusive praise in and of itself, but that isn’t the end of their efforts. Beam Suntory is working with its other distributors across various states, to provide donations to local organizations that will further help support the trade in their respective communities during this challenging time. 

Other independent suppliers and distributors have also stepped up with significant contributions of their own. Aviation Gin, partly owned by Hollywood A-lister Ryan Reynolds, has made a commitment to forward 30% of their proceeds to help bartenders throughout the crisis. Another example is Constellation Brands, whose portfolio of wine and spirits is expansive. They have committed a whopping $2.5 million, mainly to help the restaurant and bar industry get back on its feet amid massive closures wrought from COVID-19. 

Kim Haasarud, Board of Directors Charity Foundation Chair for the United States Bartenders’ Guild, talked about the grants and selflessness of many of the USBG members:

“We are so grateful for all of the donations we have received thus far, including the significant donation from Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits and Beam Suntory. It will go to help so many bar industry folks in need during this crisis. Our grants will give some assistance to put some food on the table, offset rent, and that can make a huge difference. 

“We do need to keep the fundraising going to be able to keep up with the demand.  We have received over 200k applications. While it’s heartbreaking to see so much pain and hurt right now, it’s also heartwarming to see how much togetherness there is … One thing I can tell you is the number of people that have rescinded their grant application, knowing that they may be taking it from someone who needs it more than them.  And some of our application screeners rescinded their application because they wanted to help and that was more important to them than getting a grant themselves. The amount of selflessness I'm seeing is moving. While sometimes tragedy can bring out the worst in people … it can also bring out the best.” 

Here in Las Vegas, one of our most important trades, the food and beverage industry, has been perhaps hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the other half of the $1 million donation to the USBG Foundation Emergency Assistance Program and the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation, Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits (SGWS) is considered an essential business, and as such they’ve been charged with keeping their doors open. SGWS has taken extraordinary measures to make sure their employees remain safe and healthy while continuing their mission to service the Las Vegas community.

Shaina Graham, Special Events Director for Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits of Nevada, was instrumental in helping to organize a food bank for their staff members to minimize risk of exposure while shopping for groceries. 

“We’re calling it the Food Pantry and the idea behind it is to get with our local vendors like Sysco Foods and Brady Industries, and provide staple foods for our employees. We also want to provide them with those foods that are constantly being depleted at local grocery stores and providing them with the fundamentals where they otherwise might not have access. 

“On first day of pick up, we had eighty-six people come through. The response to this program validates its need. We consider the citizens of Las Vegas part of our extended family. It is critical that we keep our team members healthy in body and mind so that we can continue to provide for the people of this great city.” 

Similar programs have been implemented throughout Las Vegas, including among others, Caesars Entertainment, which donated 250,000 pounds of food, the equivalent of 208,000 meals and thousands of items including gloves, masks and hand sanitizer to local hospitals and local charities; and Silverton Casino donated pallets of food equivalent to about 3,500 meals to local food banks and 1,000 cases of bottled water to hospitals and first responders. We are proud of our community and continue to call ourselves #VegasStrong. 

BEAP grant application

USBG National Charity Foundation