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Business Observer Monday, Mar. 30, 2020 2 years ago

Restaurant patrons set up GoFundMe campaigns for laid-off staff

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Fans of Bavaro’s and Chiles Group eateries aim to raise $110,000 for jobless workers.

ST. PETERSBURG — Dan Bavaro, the founder and owner of Bavaro’s Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria, a chain of Italian restaurants with locations in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota, has been forthright about the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on his business. 

Initially, he told the Business Observer he expected to lay off 50 people — half of his staff — but in a March 25 interview with Fox Business, Bavaro confirmed the situation is much more grim, confirming he has only nine employees still on payroll. 

“As a business owner, that hurts,” he told Fox’s Neil Cavuto. “We are trying to survive. Everyone is trying to survive.” 

Concerned patrons of Bavaro’s restaurants have responded with a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for laid-off cooks, servers, hosts, bartenders and other personnel whose lives have been upended by the COVID-19 economic crisis. As of Monday, March 30, the effort had raised $4,387; its goal is $10,000. 

It’s a similar situation in Sarasota and on Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island, where restaurants owned by the Chiles Group — Beach House, Sandbar and Mar Vista — have been devastated by social-distancing restrictions.

To support hourly Chiles Group workers who’ve been let go or had shifts and hours cut back drastically, a nonprofit, Dine On Pine Inc., has set up a GoFundMe campaign that aims to raise $100,000. It’s off to a good start, with $15,241 raised as of March 30. 

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