‘Serving those who serve us.’ This organization raised $1M to help Miami restaurants

Miami restaurants helped build the South Beach Wine & Food Festival into the biggest food festival in the world, and now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the organization is returning the favor.

The festival, along with the Florida International’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, is donating $1 million to a relief fund aimed at helping South Florida restaurant owners and hospitality workers, the festival founder said Wednesday night on Instagram. Thousands of layoffs have battered South Florida’s food industry.

“We are kicking it off with a $1 million donation,” festival founder Lee Schrager says in his Instagram video. “These funds will be given to independently owned bars and restaurants in the South Florida area.”

The first aid will go to restaurants and bars that have participated in the festival within the past five years. It will be up to restaurants to distribute that money to their affected employees. Only “after that community has been served” will the fund open up to others in the industry who have had to lay off employees, according to a press release sent later.

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More information about how restaurants and bars can apply will be available March 26 at 9 a.m. at the festival’s website,

The Industry Relief Fund is powered by an initial $500,000 donation from the 2020 festival, with donations from Bacardi, Badia Spice company, Luxco premium alcohol supplier, Jaggermeister, Shaw-Ross International spirits importer, and Miami nightclub and restaurant owner David Grutman, Schrager says in the video.

Earlier this week, restaurants themselves organized a relief fund aimed at helping their laid off employees. Several restaurateurs who have donated time and effort to the festival in the past posted online, asking how the festival, which brings in millions of dollars every year, would respond.

“We look forward to serving those people who have been serving us,” he says before signing off. “Thank you and stay safe.”

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