Big Star to Give Out Meals, Groceries to Restaurant Workers Who Lost Jobs in Coronavirus Crisis

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Chicago’s One Off Hospitality — which includes restaurants Big Star, The Publican, avec and The Violet Hour — is stepping up to provide relief to their fellow restaurant workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

In partnership with The LEE Initiative, Chef Edward Lee and Maker's Mark, One Off Hospitality and chef-partner Paul Kahan are transforming the Big Star location in Wicker Park, at 1531 N. Damen Ave., into a headquarters to provide meals to recently unemployed restaurant workers, the restaurant group said Sunday in a statement.

Beginning Tuesday, the One Off team will prepare and pack hundreds of to-go meals and grocery bags each night to workers in need of food and supplies.

Dinners will be offered each night from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on a first-come, first-serve basis, limit one per person — with strict social distancing guidelines in place for pickup. Grocery items offered include perishable canned food, vegetables and select proteins — with a limit of one pre-packed bag per person.

In order to get a meal and groceries, participants must show proper ID and some sort of identifying paperwork to prove recent employment at a restaurant, like a paystub. The group plans to give out 250 meals each night, the statement says.

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ATTN: HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY: Due to the closure of restaurants in Chicago we have an urgent need for assistance for the thousands of restaurant workers who find themselves suddenly without work, without a paycheck and without a support system. Starting on Tuesday, March 24th in partnership with @makersmark and @leeinitiative @chefedwardlee we will turn @bigstarchicago (Wicker Park) into a relief center as we welcome any restaurant worker who has been laid off or has had a significant reduction in hours and/or pay. Each night, we will pack hundreds of to go dinners that people can pick up and take home. Dinners are offered on a first come, first served basis. Limit 1 per person unless there is an emergency situation. We will also have pre-packed groceries on hand. We will be distributing one grocery bag with each meal, while supplies last. Details of the program are below: WHERE: Big Star Wicker Park, 1531 N Damen Avenue WHEN: The Restaurant Workers Relief program will begin on Tuesday, March 24th and will be offered seven nights a week until otherwise notified. Pick up time is 5 pm to 7 pm nightly. WHAT’S NEEDED: Everyone must show proper ID and have some identifying paperwork to prove recent employment at a restaurant. A paystub will suffice in most cases. To support this program and our restaurant community donate to #chefselevatingchefs #goodfoodforgood #LEEInitiative

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“The spread of COVID-19 has been disastrous for the restaurant community and so many of the hard working employees who are now unable to collect a paycheck,” Kahan, the group's executive chef, said in a statement. “We’re so thankful for Maker’s Mark and Chef Edward Lee of The LEE Initiative for stepping up to provide for these workers, who are truly the backbone of the hospitality industry.

“Alongside my partners and team, we’re grateful that we’re able to use Big Star as a place to support these tremendous charitable efforts and think it’s remarkable to see how our industry continues to band together in a time of great need.”

The program will be offered throughout the quarantine period or as long as supplies last.

Donations of goods like diapers, toilet paper, paper towels and more can be made via Amazon, sent directly to Big Star's Wicker Park address with the label "Attn: Big Star Donation," the group said, adding that it would not be accepting in-person drop-offs in order to comply with Illinois' stay-at-home order. Contributions can also be made to the LEE Initiative on the organization's website.

Contributing article from our colleagues at NBC Sports Chicago.

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