The quarantine due to the COVID-19 virus has affected all aspects of society. The food & beverage industry in particular has felt it, as well as our fair city. Being a service industry town, Las Vegas has been hit particularly hard.

There is a ripple effect that continues. From full bar and partial restaurant closures to major casinos being completely shut down, the consequences to the supporting businesses and food & beverage community are still revealing themselves. We won’t know its full extent for a while. 

Ironically, what keeps us apart can also bring us together. The silver lining is that during these trying times, the bonds among the service industry thrives. Our F&B community is tight-knit and our sense of family is robust and sincere. It is part of the reason why even as a growing city, we can maintain our sense of small town conviviality.

On a national level, many brands stepped up wanting to support the food & beverage community. Jameson was one of the first to give nationally, along with Brown Forman and Campari. Several others have followed suit and even given to the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG). 

The USBG, through the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program, has been at the forefront of the efforts to help those in the hospitality industry in need. Raul Faria, our local USBG President and a member of the National Charity committee, said, “The COVID-19 crisis has created an overwhelming need that we are working hard to address. With our 475 volunteers we have been able to screen over 250,000 applications, process over 60,000 and have issued grants to applicants with more getting out each week.”

Regarding work done in our community, our USBG family is no different. Raul continued, “Locally our Las Vegas chapter here has assisted in facilitating the Pantry program from sponsors like Bacardi, El Silencio and Gallo Brands. We have also teamed up with Crystina Nguyen with the Mama’s Care Package program that delivers meals, some cocktails and some education on the sponsor brands like Asahi and Kurosawa Sake.”

Campari has had an important role as well. I spoke with our local representative Anthony DeMaria, who said that he has been even busier than before the shutdown. He outlined for me a number of initiatives that they have in play including: commissioning local artists and photographers, online giveaways and Gypsy Kitchen, who has donated meals to senior citizens and those in the hospitality industry. Campari also was a major contributor to the Sparrow and Wolf Challenge, a charity which has donated meals directly to first responders here in Las Vegas, but has recently grown to a national level.

Brown Forman, the parent company for Jack Daniel’s and Old Forester, have also helped out locally by distributing 300 heat & serve family-style pans of food from casino food vendor Best West Foods and distributed 96 meals for affected industry workers from local establishments including Balboa Pizza, Gaetano’s, Chicago Brewing Co., Juan’s Flaming Fajitas, Wahoo’s Fish Tacos and Home Plate; and the “Lost Shift” virtual cocktail competition where we awarded 24 local winners a $270 prize.

Lemba Rum (which is actually bottled in North Las Vegas), is also doing their part. While they are not the size of the mega-distillers, Lemba knew that pitching in was the right thing to do. They held an online competition which got local bartenders engaged but also gave to the USBG National Charity Fund. 

They are also sponsoring a cocktail book (which I am helping with) in which the proceeds will go to Las Vegas bartenders via the USBGLV. It will be called Lemba Loves Las Vegas and will feature recipes from Tony Abou-Ganim, Francesco Lafranconi, Mariena Boarini Mercer and loads of others. 

Local industry podcasts are helping with the spread of positive information and to let people know what resources are available. Sarah Gage’s “Booze Broad” and “Corporate Entrepreneurs with Sam Bracamontes” have both had episodes on the subject along with the “Fabulous Swiggavino Brothers and Adam.” The latter has had local and national guests on including bar owners, distillers, Livio Lauro from SGWS and Anthony Jamison from the Sand Dollar. I spoke to one of the hosts, Gene Samuel, who said, “We have focused on this on our show mainly to put a familiar face and voice to this drastic situation that we are all in, a friendly voice to help.”

Many businesses are remaining open in order to service Las Vegas and help the community. Our hats go off to the many restaurants and grocery stores that are continuing giving us essential goods and feeding the people. We would also like to thank Las Vegas Distillery for continuing to produce and also pivoting some of their production to sanitizer. Also look for Xamay Spirits LLC, who is also producing sanitizer that will be available shortly. 

While the situation is continuing to develop, our habits and business practices will have to adapt. It is my hope that we will all do our best to buy local, be smart and continue to care for one another so that we can arise as a new Vegas, one that continues to reinvent itself, bring the good times and change the world one celebration at a time! 

 #Salute