It’s no secret that 2020 greatly impacted the restaurant business. Every week, we watched as some of our favorite places closed their doors, including mainstays that have survived for decades. As the year carried on, so did the hardships and struggles that owners, chefs, bartenders, dishwashers, waiters, and other staffers endured.
In an attempt to do something about the decline of the restaurant industry, and to help other small businesses around the country, Dave Portnoy of the popular sports blog, Barstool Sports, started the Barstool Fund. With more than $23 million dollars raised so far, Barstool has helped over 120 businesses, including eight restaurants in the Garden State.
Damen Van Ginneken, owner of the 15-year-old Underdog Bar & Grill in Haledon, said his phone call from Portnoy was completely surreal. After a year of hardship, Van Ginneken was doubtful about the future of his sports bar.
Underdog employees continued to be paid through 2020, regardless of the amount made that day. With their bulk income dependent on people getting drinks at the bar, the restaurant continued to operate at a loss due to state dining restrictions.
“We’re just trying to get to the other side of Covid,” said Van Ginneken. “I’m very confident we can do that now with Barstool’s help.”
Another family-owned restaurant in Rochelle Park went through similar same struggles. Nanni Ristorante in Rochelle Park was one of the first small businesses picked by Barstool, and pushed through 2020 tirelessly, with revenue dropping 90 percent at the start of the pandemic.
“[Barstool] is going to be with us throughout the pandemic,” said Robert Moreira of Nanni. “We’re super grateful for the help we were able to get.”
Check out some of the other New Jersey restaurants being helped by the Barstool Fund.
Underdog Bar & Grill, Haledon
The bar at Underdog would typically be packed, but is now pretty much empty during Sunday football games. After a tough year, and finding out that owner Damen’s wife, Lizzie, had cancer, the staff and workers at Underdog continued to move forward with hope. “The love and support and little bit of magic are what is saving us both,” says Lizzie Van Ginneken.
Underdog Bar & Grill, 4 Church Street, Haledon; 973-720-5999
Nanni Ristorante, Rochelle Park
Since 1988, the Moreira family has been serving Italian food with a staff that has been there for over 30 years. The hard-working employees were paid throughout the pandemic, with not one payment missed, as the Moreira family did their best to stay open. With a beautiful background story as to how Nanni opened, Barstool will help them continue what has been in their family for decades.
Nanni Ristorante, 53 West Passaic Street, Rochelle Park; 201-843-1250
Just Jake’s, Montclair
This 23-year-old family-run bar has taken a hit without late night hours. Most profitable on Friday and Saturday nights, when the bar was packed with people and live music, Just Jake’s was the spot to be. Owned by Carl Zimmermann (a retired Montclair firefighter), Just Jake’s powered through 2020, continuously paying their staff, despite the losses experienced last year.
Just Jake’s, 30 Park Street, Montclair; 973-655-8987
Hoboken Beer & Soda Outlet, Hoboken
Family-owned and -operated since 1975, this drive-through beer store is a staple in Hoboken. Customers physically drive through the building, place their order, pack their trunks and drive off. This spot doesn’t just offer kegs, seltzers and sodas, they also offer local delivery for those in the area. Owner Joe Mignoli took over the business from his parents, and in 2008, began delivery service to local bars and restaurants. With time restrictions and capacity limits, the outlet struggled to continue their business, especially into the winter months. With the help of Barstool, Mignoli will be able to get through his toughest months of the year.
Hoboken Beer & Soda Outlet, 599 Newark Street, Hoboken; 201-792-2776
Tim Kerwin’s Tavern, Middlesex
At the start of the pandemic, Tim Kerwin’s Tavern teamed up with a regular customer to start Connor’s Tab to donate meals to both frontline heroes and local seniors. The bar has operated since 1954, and been in the Kerwin family for four generations. With a friendly neighborhood atmosphere, and the help of Barstool, Tim Kerwin’s will continue to provide good food and great experiences to all of its guests.
Tim Kerwin’s Tavern, 353 Bound Brook Road, Middlesex; 732-968-3805
Jack’s Cafe, Verona
Run by Jack and Marianne McNamara, Jack’s Cafe, opened in 1997, has become an important part of the Verona community for 24 years. Rachel, daughter of Jack and Marianne, grew up watching her parents work tirelessly to keep Jack’s Cafe running. With a small staff of only five people, their small-knit crew is grateful for support from the Barstool Fund.
Jack’s Cafe, 684 Bloomfield Avenue, Verona; 973-239-5321
Mia Restaurant, Oceanport
Family-owned and -operated, this Italian eatery was the local spot for school parties, confirmations, and bridal showers before the pandemic. After a tough year, Mia’s was forced to close their doors after Christmas Eve, leaving 15 years of business behind them. Since being selected by the Barstool Fund, Mia’s has re-opened for outdoor dining and takeout.
Mia Restaurant, 249 E Main St, Oceanport; 732-483-6058
Marandola’s, Bradley Beach
Owner Mark Marandola holds an extensive career in the culinary world, having worked in restaurants in New Jersey, New York City and Long Island. After attending the Culinary Institute of America and spending time all over the United States and Europe, chef Marandola opened his own restaurant at the Shore. What is mostly a seasonal business has struggled since the temperatures dropped. In order to help with rent and other bills, Marandola’s turned to Barstool for help, and the organization delivered.
Marandola’s, 608 Main Street, Bradley Beach; 732-361-5888
Check out all of the restaurants and other small businesses the Barstool Fund is helping on their website. Donate to the fund or purchase small business merchandise to help. If you’re a small business in need of help due to the impacts of Covid-19, you can submit your application online.Click here to leave a comment