Popular sports blog grants money to local bars and restaurants facing foreclosure due to COVID-19 restrictions.
By: Dominick Caccavella and Sonny Bartell
The cover band unloads all of their equipment on the stage, ready to perform at 10 P.M, while college kids pour into the bar ready for cheap drinks and live music. It’s a typical Friday night for Just Jake’s, a bar that has been a staple in Montclair for nearly 25 years.
However things have changed. Over the past year, the Coronavirus outbreak has had a devastating financial impact on bars and restaurants, impacting countless establishments in the area. For Just Jake’s and another local establishment, Jack’s Café, luckily a nationwide fund came to the rescue.
“On the weekends we would have the live bands play, and it would bring around 200 to 250 people into the bar on Friday and Saturday nights. The place was packed and full of energy,” said Jake Zimmermann manager of Just Jake’s.
Barstool Sports, a digital media and sports blog, launched the “Barstool Fund” in December of 2020 in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The fund started by company founder Dave Portnoy is geared towards saving small businesses that have been financially drained by Covid-19 restrictions.
In the first six months the fund has raised nearly $40,000,000 with donations from nearly 230,000 people and has supported 342 businesses. Two of these businesses are Just Jake’s and Jack’s Café, a small establishment located in Verona, NJ.
“Once summer was over and outdoor dining was not an option, we knew the monthly revenue was only going to get worse and worse. We had little government aid, but it just wasn’t enough. The fund started around Christmas time, and I actually found out about the fund through Jack’s Café,” Zimmermann said.
“I actually went to school with Rachel McNamara who is the manager at Jack’s Café and saw on Instagram that the café received the fund. That is when I went online and submitted the application to try to alleviate some of the bar’s problems.”
McNamara recalled her thought process when she reached out to Barstool Sports and to this day is amazed that the tiny café got the attention of Portnoy’s nationwide grant.
“We at first didn’t really realize what Barstool was, but thank god we reached out to them for help,” McNamara said. “We have always had a lot of support over our 25 years of service but now the community has helped us out even more than we ever could’ve imagined.”
“Fox News and other media outlets contacted us after we got the donation, and the whole experience became a little surreal, to be honest.”
On the other hand, Zimmermann has been an avid fan of Portnoy since high school and knew Just Jake’s was the perfect candidate for the Barstool Fund.
“When I took a look at the other candidates for the fund, I knew we were in good shape. They love to help out bars that are staples in the community. We have been here for 25 years and we in a way belong in Montclair, if that makes sense. So, I wasn’t that surprised when we got the email saying we were going to be getting the aid.”
Zimmerman explained the process of getting the money from Barstool and how crazy it was to receive the call from one of his favorite celebrities.
“We received the email saying that we qualified for the aid, so I was expecting the Facetime call from him within the next couple of days. But, it was still crazy to get notification from an unknown number and then see his face pop up. I’ll never forget that call and that moment,” Zimmerman said.
Although the Barstool Fund has been a success, they can’t help every business that has struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic. Montclair State Professor Vidya Atal says there is a reason for hope as we approach summer.
“There has been significant growth in the industry these past few months, with vaccinations and capacity restrictions being lifted. I think there’s reason to be optimistic about the future,” said Atal.
Governmental restrictions being lifted and continued help from Barstool have Jack’s Café Owner Marianne McNamara extremely grateful at the current moment.
“Barstool has continued to help us out. Each month they send us emails or call to ask if we need anything and to make sure the café is doing well. What Dave Portnoy has done is truly remarkable. I hope everyone can learn from what he is doing and try their best to help out people who are struggling, McNamara said. He is truly making the world a better place.”
To apply or donate, submit an application at TheBarstoolFund.com/apply.