TL;DR: Last year, we raised a meaningful amount of money on my birthday to help six local restaurants, hoping to provide a lifeline until government relief arrived. But it never did. Nevertheless, as a result of your generosity and their grit, those spots survived -- though their situations remain precarious. So we're running it back in the hope of buying more time. Recipients: The Tandem, Goodkind, Three Brothers, Ca’Lucchenzo, Interval, and Bavette La Boucherie. Gifts matched by organizers up to $4,700.
Just before midnight on March 18, 2020, I was feeling hopeless and powerless. I had spent the previous few days watching many of my friends abruptly and indefinitely close their restaurants as the first wave of COVID-19 cases began to spread across the city. I watched as they cooked off what was left in their freezers so that their staff would have food to eat, and I agonized as they posted pictures of impromptu farewell gatherings.
There is a reason that the pre-service meal provided in many restaurants is called “family meal.” Whether related by blood or not, that’s the type of closeness that develops in those special spots—it’s also why we, as diners, are drawn to them. And one year ago tonight, I was distraught as I watched those families be broken up through absolutely no fault of their own.
In response to that grief, Julie and I decided to do something. We knew, in the grand scheme of things, that it probably wouldn’t amount to much. But it’s in our nature to try. So I wrote a humble appeal and asked my friends to contribute to an online fundraiser that I unceremoniously dubbed “Save Our Spots.” I posted at 12:01 a.m. on March 19th—my 46th birthday—in hopes that we could raise enough money to help a few of my favorite restaurants weather the coming storm. Just moments later, my dear friend Blair Williams was the first to wish me happy birthday, which was accompanied by a $146 donation. I smiled, silenced my phone, and went to bed.
When we put up the GoFundMe, Julie and I set a goal of $15,000, but we would have been very happy to simply match the $4,600 we had contributed to seed the campaign. By the time I woke up to make coffee, there was already $2,000 in pledges. (Some of you rise at alarmingly early hours, by the way.) We hit the match before noon and raised the entire initial goal amount by dinner time. Donations poured in so fast that GoFundMe twice suspended the campaign for verification. In the meantime, the local news media took note of what was happening and wrote stories, prompting another wave of donations. By the time it ran its course, Save Our Spots reached the national and international newswires. Julie and I appeared on the Kelly Clarkson Show to spread the word further. And perhaps most rewardingly, others inspired by the idea launched SOS campaigns of their own in other cities and different industries.
In all, we raised $33,455 (net of fees), which was distributed to six local restaurants with no strings attached. Their endlessly grateful and often tear-filled acceptances of that support is something I’ll never forget.
Your money made a profound impact. It paid workers who were suddenly unemployed. It purchased equipment used to retool operations and pivot to carryout. And it paid for hundreds of community meals served to Milwaukeeans in need by the grace of Saint Caitlin Cullen. On behalf of The Tandem, Goodkind, Three Brothers, Ca’Lucchenzo, Interval, and Bavette La Boucherie, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your generosity last year.
As with any shared experience, and particularly a traumatic one, as the first days of quarantine turned into months of isolation that are now being marked this week by grim shutdown anniversaries, we’ve all become somewhat numb to the hardships caused by the pandemic. But even as the vaccine rate accelerates and a hope of normalcy begins to appear on the horizon, those needs persist.
Despite herculean efforts from some local advocates (looking at you, Dan Jacobs), government support for independent restaurants was non-existent until the coronavirus relief bill was signed into law last Friday. While that money is now promised, its delivery date remains uncertain—and it could very well arrive too late for some or not at all.
So one year later, with just minutes left to go before my 47th birthday, I’m writing again to ask for your help. Julie and I understand that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place. This renewed campaign—cleverly entitled “Save Ours Spots 2/47”—is unlikely to go viral. But as I talked to the owners/operators of our six spots over the past few days, it became abundantly clear that although they have survived, they have not, in fact, been saved.
After more than a year of empty dining rooms, the process of returning to “normal” service is overwhelmingly daunting. For some, it will require the same amount of effort and financial resources to re-open as it did to open in the first place. Staff needs to be rehired and trained. Equipment needs to be serviced. Inventory needs to be purchased. And that’s not even half of it.
With all that being said, Julie and I are again humbly asking for your donations to support The Tandem, Goodkind, Three Brothers, Ca’Lucchenzo, Interval, and Bavette La Boucherie. We we will match the first $4,700 in donations made. Anyone making a donation of $100 or more will receive a t-shirt emblazoned on the front with the rad logo designed by my brother, Brad , above, and with the names of the six spots on the back.
If any of those are one of your spots, please consider a monetary donation or help spread the word by sharing. If you were someone fortunate enough to work in a business that easily transitioned to remote work and enjoyed a profitable year (while likely benefitting from the PPP money that eluded most bars, restaurants, and cafes), give a little extra. And If you have a spot of your own that you’d rather support, please give to them instead. There are so many worthy ones. If you organize something more formal for another spot (or spots), let us know and we’ll contribute and/or boost the signal.
What’s most important is that we continue to act. Brighter days are undoubtedly ahead and I know many of us are eagerly anticipating our first meal in a restaurant in more than a year. Our spots have spent that time fighting tooth and nail so that they can still be there to welcome us back. We can’t let them down now.
With love and gratitude,
C.J. & Julie Krawczyk