It’s no secret how the pandemic has impacted small businesses. In particular, the restaurant industry has been strapped with a heavy financial burden. Some lucky Connecticut restaurants though are getting a bit of a bailout, from Barstool Sports.
Barstool Sports is a social media giant known mostly for quirky pizza reviews. However, recently they’ve been taking on a much more important cause -- helping businesses like Wallingford’s Laskara Restaurant.
Maria Riopel has managed Laskara since her father, and former restaurant owner, passed away five years ago. Times have been challenging, but none more than the past ten months.
“I would sit in the restaurant when we were closed, alone, just crying on the floor,” said Riopel, recalling the darkest days. There were times when she considered locking the doors.
Amidst the pandemic, restaurants around the state have struggled, including Hartford’s Red Rock Tavern.
“We’ve kind of had our world, as everybody else has, kind of turned upside down overnight,” said Red Rock manager, Chelsey Mancini.
Facing difficult times, both of these restaurants turned to social media for help. Laskara and Red Rock submitted videos to Barstool Sports; making a case to be chosen for the newly formed Barstool Fund, which has raised nearly $19 million to help small business. So far, 82 businesses nationwide have been assisted, including Laskara and Red Rock.
“My heart was beating. I was sweating. I just couldn’t even believe it,” said Riopel, describing what it was like getting a call from Barstool president and internet star, Dave Portnoy.
A third Connecticut business will be supported by the Barstool Fund. Hartford’s Piggy’s Café was also chosen. Barstool says they will all receive monthly checks for the amounts they need. Each amount was determined based on payroll and financial info submitted to Barstool for consideration. Riopel says Laskara will receive $17,000 per month.
“It will help us keep everyone on the payroll and pay all our vendors to get all our food,” said Riopel.
With this type of help, those benefiting here in Connecticut say they will persevere.
“You know winter is always a long season, so this is ensuring there is a light at the end of the tunnel for us,” said Mancini.