For Josh McCullough, laying off 16 employees right before Christmas was an excruciating decision. But when indoor dining closed due to COVID-19 mitigation orders, the owner of West Chester’s Slow Hand restaurant knew that takeout orders and four outdoor tables wouldn’t generate enough to support his servers, bartenders, food runners and other staff. “It’s my responsibility to take care of my employees, but right now I can’t do that financially,” says McCullough. “The best decision was to lay them off so they could collect unemployment.”
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McCullough set up a PayPal account and offered a heartfelt plea for donations, posting a Dec. 19 message on Slow Hand’s Instagram and Facebook accounts. Within two days, more than $4,000 had been raised. “Incredibly grateful and quite emotional” is how McCullough described the response to his plea. Donations are coming throughout the region and as far away as Texas and California. “As a nation, we understand the pain of the restaurant community,” says McCullough. “This industry is made up of people getting their footing in life. They typically don’t have financial security nets.”
Donations will be distributed to staff, prorated by the number of shifts they worked. McCullough will make the first draw next week, so staff members get funds to help pay their rent on Jan. 1. The fund will run for 30 days.
West Chester’s Classic Diner also launched a fund to support its laid-off employees. The GoFundMe page generated more than $2,600 in donations. “We need help,” Classic Diner’s Caroline Eddinger wrote in a statement. “Each one of these people has a family and bills. Each one has to eat and shelter themselves. This is a dire time for many. I am pleading for your help. Every dollar counts.”