Hospitality industry professionals convene for show of solidarity
Keg manager Joe Coe put together the coolest local photo op of the pandemic quarantine when he invited friends in the restaurant industry to join together for a picture at Orange Beach Waterfront Park as a way of showing solidarity among the island’s close knit hospitality industry.
“We talked about how the pandemic was affecting us and what we could do to help provide financial relief for employees and tried to help each other connect the dots in processing the systems with the SBA,’’ Coe said.
“It was also a way to show the great solidarity and the unification of the profession here here on the island,’’ he added.
Coe said the restaurant owners and managers discussed revising a recognized coalition during the gathering, but he assumes that all of the hospitality businesses have been as busy as the Keg since last month’s lifting of the quarantine.
“I don’t think anybody was expecting this kind of response when we opened back up,’’ he said. “With Florida not fully opening up, it has been crazy at the Keg. Last weekend may have been even busier than Memorial Day Weekend.’’
In attendance were Coe and Howard Gann of the Keg, John McInnis III of the Flora-Bama Lounge and Package Store, Matt Pugh and Brian Harsany of Cosmo’s Restaurant & Bar, Cobalt the Restaurant, Luna’s Eat and Drink, GTs On the Bay and BuzzCatz Coffee and Sweets, Leck Labron of Big Fish Restaurant & Bar, Jonathan Kastner of Anchor Bar & Grill, Bryan Tillee of Live Bait, Eric Beech of Brick & Spoon, Brannon Holloway of Cactus Cantina, Michelle Deerman of Duck’s Diner, Scott Bryant of S&S Seafood Market, Jesse Sonnier of Bon Temps Poboys and Specialty Meats, Sanford McLain of the Undertow and Shannon Robbins of Sandshaker at The Wharf.
“I thought it was nice and we powwowed before and we powwowed after,” saide Harsany. “We’ve been working to possibly get the restaurant and hospitality and hotel crews back together that has failed several times. I think that this might just be as bad as this is something that can definitely bring us back and unify us.”
Scott Coe of Island Time Daiquiris and Pizza lined up the restaurant group with proper social distancing in place and took a picture of the group in front of the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach. The group discussed the current situation and other issues going forward for the tourist-driven industry.
“We can acknowledge and agree that there are many common factors that we need to battle together,” Harsany said. “If we get the state support and the national support then we can get a lot further with our goals. It was definitely a great show of solidarity. We all know we’re on the same boat even beyond this pandemic going on. We all have the same issues that we are battling. We can soundboard ideas off of one another and come up with solutions.”
John McInnis III of the Flora-Bama Lounge and Package said the group already has an eye on a leader.
“We pretty much agreed to do that and we all volunteered Brian Harsany to be the president,” McInnis said. “He circulated email chains and tried to get everybody together before so that’s one of the reasons we volunteered him.”
Harsany may be a slightly reluctant choice.
“I don’t know if the guy’s name they are floating is very accepting of that,” Harsany said with a laugh..
“I think that we shared different things we’ve learned about the SBA process and the current stimulus plan,” McInnis said. “I think there were a lot of unanswered questions but we were able to share information about that and everybody picked something up on what to do or not to do.”
“All in all, it did exactly what I wanted it to do. It showed unification and strength and professionalism in our industry that we have down here on the island. It went good,’’ Coe said. “I just thought I’d do something to show the solidarity and resilence we have down here on the island. It’s just something that I thought needed to be done with all of us out here struggling.’’