Blanca Rivera

Blanca Rivera worked as a bartender at The Oyster Bar until the bar closed due to the coronavirus. “I’m grateful that we live somewhere where we can all pull together and we’re always looking out for each other, even something that’s happening to everyone — they’re still trying to look out for people who need a little bit of help," Rivera said. MIKALA COMPTON | Herald-Zeitung

Restaurant closures pose an inconvenience for the hungry masses, but for servers who rely on tips for income, closures may make it hard to put food on the table. 

To help them, New Braunfels Downtown Association is asking for the public’s help.

New Braunfels Mayor Barron Casteel on Tuesday announced a Stay at Home and Work Safe order that started late Wednesday. The announcement came days after city officials issued orders closing bars and restaurant dining rooms, among other places prone to social gatherings.

Of the 80 to 90 businesses in New Braunfels’ 

downtown, about 40 are restaurants and bars, said Heidi Aleman, president of the association.

“We don’t have exact numbers yet, but there are a huge amount of people who work at these businesses, and if there are any who rely solely on tips, they have no income right now, unless the business owner can work with them,” Aleman said.

A board member suggested selling shirts that visibly show support for downtown New Braunfels while financially aiding its unemployed employees. Two days later, the yellow T-shirts, emblazoned with “KEEP IT WUNDERFUL #downtownnewbraunfels” across the chest, were available online for $15-$18. Proceeds will be given directly to those affected.

“We’ve sold over 100 since March 21,” Aleman said. “Hopefully, as the word gets out, we’ll see them spike.”

But that’s not the only thing the association is doing to try to help downtown’s businesses.

Another board member suggested a gift card giveaway campaign, which could benefit restaurants, bars and retail stores in a number of ways.

“The association agreed to spend $4,500 on gift certificates from downtown businesses, and people can win them by playing trivia,” Aleman said. “It helps the businesses by giving them money immediately, but also we’re showing people online — people are seeing their businesses online and will go spend their gift cards there, maybe more.”

Starting Monday, the association will host a daily gift card giveaway on Facebook and Instagram for four weeks.

Aleman said the association hopes these two efforts will be the first of many to support downtown businesses.

“Hopefully we can get more ideas from people on other things we can do,” she said. “Lots of people are trying to help downtown, and we welcome more suggestions. We have to start somewhere, and we had these two ideas up and running within 24 hours.”

For more information about the New Braunfels Downtown Association’s efforts, go to 

www.facebook.com/downtownnewbraunfels/.

More fundraisers for unemployed restaurant workers

A local philanthropist made several GoFundMe fundraisers for unemployed restaurant workers as eateries close due to the coronavirus.

Robert Strack put up fundraisers for The Oyster Bar, Bootleggers Pizza Parlor and the Gruene Door Restaurant on Tuesday. Each fundraiser has a $12,000 goal, and some people already donated money.

All the money goes to unemployed staff and not owners or management, and Strack said he plans to make many more for local restaurants who shuttered their doors.

“I was watching TV and talking about how many in the service industry all these people are being laid off,” Strack said. “Many work paycheck to paycheck, and a lot don’t have enough money to make rent. In 15 minutes, I decided to start calling restaurant owners and everyone said ‘Absolutely!’”

He said he hopes to get other places including Myron’s Prime Steakhouse, Huisache Grill, McAdoo’s Seafood Company, both of the Gennaro’s La Cucina Italiana and La Cosecha Mexican Table.

Workers are asked to file for unemployment. Strack said he checked and the donations do not interfere with applying for unemployment since they are just individual donations.

Nathan Vosper, chef and co-owner of The Oyster Bar and Bootleggers Pizza Parlor, said his two restaurants closed before St. Patrick’s Day out of safety precautions.

Unfortunately that meant more than 15 staff members were let go, and he encouraged them to file for unemployment.

“We coached them and lead them in the direction to file for unemployment through unemployment and I feel we did that early enough so hopefully they get help sooner than later,” Vosper said. “The GoFundMe is an additional way to raise any funds, any $20 will help them pay groceries and pay a bill and doesn’t hinder getting unemployment.”

Blanca Rivera, who worked as a bartender at The Oyster Bar, expressed optimism that the fundraiser will provide funds to pay a bill or two.

“I’m hoping that it will help out with employees — I know that a lot of them have children and they can’t stay out doing other things or go find another job because their kids are home from school,” Rivera said. “I’m hoping it will cover some expenses so we can afloat during this whole thing.”

Rivera said New Braunfels is a strong community and she wasn’t surprised to find that people are already donating to the fundraisers.

“I think we’ll get a strong response from it,” she said. “I’m grateful that we live somewhere where we can all pull together and we’re always looking out for each other, even something that’s happening to everyone — they’re still trying to look out for people who need a little bit of help.”

Vosper said he plans to reopen and hopes employees can come back, but understands in the meantime they may get other jobs.

“Once it’s safe to reopen, my coworkers and myself as well as any and all staff that want to come back to get back in there and will be so excited to do what we do,” Vosper said. “We’re putting out great quality food, great service and this town is amazing. We’re extremely blessed to have this staff and blessed to be in New Braunfels, the best city in the state and the country.”

Reporter Steve Knight also contributed to this story.

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(1) comment

DENISE BROWN

Kudos to you Robert for starting this idea. We started a GoFund Me page as well a few weeks ago supporting the employees at Los Gallos. It's a Crisis Pay campaign. Good luck to all of us who enjoy our passion of feeding the New Braunfels community. Blessings!

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