Ann Arbor hospitality community helps its own stay afloat during closures

Bar community feeds displaced hospitality workers

A 4-person volunteer group has been preparing and handing out free meals for displaced bar and hospitality workers in Ann Arbor. (Robben Schulz)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Like the city’s small business scene, the hospitality industry in Ann Arbor has also been struggling as the novel coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses to close their doors.

But a group of hospitality businesses are working together to make sure workers in their industry are offered some relief.

Spearheaded by Robben Schulz -- a partner of Watershed Hospitality Group which owns many hospitality venues in Ann Arbor -- staff members from The Last Word and LIVE Nightclub have been making free meals for out-of-work members of Ann Arbor’s bar community.

Lead by Chef Nate Colman of The Last Word, a group of four volunteers has been collecting donations and putting together meals.

Through email, Schulz said that five days before the shutdown of Michigan bars, he ordered extra food. He intended to help feed his employees while they were out of work and offered the extra meals to employees at other bars.

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After the first industry family dinner, he started to receive donations from other Ann Arbor restaurants and bars, and he knew that there was enough food to make a second meal.

Schulz said the first dinner consisted of 40 meals but that number has grown to 100 meals for workers from 21 hospitality venues.

A 4-person volunteer group has been preparing and handing out free meals for displaced bar and hospitality workers in Ann Arbor. (Robben Schulz)

How it works

Currently, the carry-out meals are offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the loading zone in front of LIVE Nightclub.

Meal pick-up is between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Those with other mouths to feed are encouraged to grab additional meals.

Donations to help out with the industry family dinners are being accepted through Venmo and Paypal. Details can be found through The Last Word Facebook page here.

LIVE is at 102 S. 1st Street.

As of now, Schulz intends to keep providing meals for as long as possible but will keep the volunteer crew small to minimize the chances of anyone becoming sick.

"I’m not sure where this will go but I do know we will continue to try and do this for as long as the shutdown lasts. It’s differently growing and we are up to around 100 meals severed per night, " Schulz said over email.

“Tonight we had staff from 21 different local restaurants come for our “Industry Family Meal.” All people who want to work, all people who will soon have to start making decisions on what bill to pay, what to cancel, what to let go into collections. We want to be there for these people -- at least 3 days a week they don’t have to stress about having to find fresh, healthy meals.”

While The Last Word is covering utility costs, the meals have been put together with donations from Ann Arbor businesses including The Standard Bistro & Larder, BarStar Group, Weber’s Ann Arbor, HOMES Brewery, Blue LLama Jazz Club, Regents Field, The Last Word, Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery, The Black Pearl, Wyndham Garden Hotel, Loomi Cafe, Teahaus, Jefferson Market, Sweet Heather Ann, Del Bene Produce, Rosewood Products and many others.

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.