It was a sobering call. My co-worker Kim was facilitating a Zoom meeting for the Lawrence Restaurant Association. One little way we’ve tried to help our local partners during the COVID-19 pandemic is allowing them to use use the Zoom meeting technology that we subscribe to. I joined in on the call because I wanted to offer marketing support for local restaurants.
We knew local restaurants were going through a rough time, just how drastically rough was made apparent a few seconds into the call. We were on the line with the owners of some of Lawrence’s most beloved local eateries… Merchants Pub & Plate, The Burger Stand, Bon Bon, Ramen Bowls, and Leeway Franks. These were people who collectively have worked with hundreds of hospitality workers and have served tens, probably hundreds of thousands of locals, students, and visitors. They are people whose entire livelihoods have been turned upside down. They’ve either temporarily closed their doors or completely reinvented the way they do business to allow people to enjoy their food while keeping everyone involved safe.
When Kim and I got on the call, it was quiet, the mood was sad. I had read the updates and seen the research… COVID-19 was devastating to the hospitality industry. But seeing the faces and hearing the voices of these leaders in our local restaurant industry was a wake-up call. It made it all so real.
The group spent a few minutes rehashing the last 24-hours. They’ve been consoling other restaurant owners and their staff. Comforting others all the while trying to navigate this “new normal” and what it means for their own business’ operations. But that was not the purpose of the call. These restaurant owners came together with one thing on their minds, how could they act as swiftly as possible to provide financial relief for Lawrence hospitality workers who are out of work due to COVID-19.
The plan was already in place. Letters were being sent out to raise dollars for the Lawrence Hospitality Workers Relief Fund and money was coming in. A website was in the works. The application process was being created, review committees set in stone. Financial details being worked out. The attention to detail and care to make sure the whole application process is as fair and as free of barriers as possible while maintaining the integrity of the fund impressed me. I came away from the call knowing this is something our organization would support and share.
Less than two weeks later, the website is live, they’ve raised more than $20,000 and local laid-off hospitality workers are already benefiting from the fund which awards up to $250 per applicant.
It is expected that the demand for funds will exhaust the current amount of funds available. The Lawrence Restaurant Association is continuing to accept donations through GoFundMe, PayPal, CashApp, Venmo, and check.
Meet the Lawrence Restaurant Association
Rick Martin, Instructor and Restaurant Consultant
Rick has been a major part of the Lawrence restaurant scene for more than 25 years. Besides being a founding partner of Limestone Pizza and the executive chef at Free State Brewing Co., Rick teaches culinary arts at the high school and post-secondary level, and operates a restaurant consulting company.
Emily & TK Petersen, Merchants Pub & Plate
Merchants is owned and operated by locals Chef TK and Emily Peterson, who have a passion for supporting their local community.
It all starts with the menu – they work with their neighbors to bring the best of what’s locally available to the table for a great meal.
The menu is full of familiar dishes, reimagined through the Merchants lens of seasonal + local + flexible + fun. Merchants is currently closed until further notice.
Codi & Simon Bates, Bon Bon & The Burger Stand
Codi and Simon own two popular local restaurants, Bon Bon in the Warehouse Arts District and The Burger Stand at the Casbah downtown. The Bates’ also own the Cider Gallery in the Warehouse Arts District
Bon Bon features eclectic Asian-meets-Midwest-meets-anything-goes style, and features a diverse selection of shared plates, buns and sides.
The Burger Stand is a hot spot serving gourmet burgers & hot dogs, funky sides & a full bar in an industrial-chic setting.
Both restaurants are currently closed.
K & Lee Meisel, Leeway Franks
K and Lee Meisel own Leeway Franks, al aid-back, counter-serve offering hearty, familiar sandwiches & all-American favorites. Their tator tot are somewhat legendary. But more than anything, they are known for their sausage. Leeway Franks is currently offering curbside pick up and delivery.
The Meisl’s also own Leeway Butcher right next door. They are currently delivering as well.
Call 785.856.0890 to order from both places
Shantel & Tim Grace, Ramen Bowls
Ramen Bowls is a modern Japanese eatery with a cool vibe serving a variety of ramen bowls, plus dumplings & sake. Shantel and Tim Grace opened the very first ramen shop in the state of Kansas to Lawrence after moving from Hawaii in . Ramen Bowls is one of the only places in America that make traditional Japanese noodles in house! Check out how they are made in the video below.
Ramen Bowls is currently taking orders for pick-up and delivery.