Each month, PUNCH’s Bartender in Residence program has spotlighted a rising bartender, sharing their stories and philosophies behind the bar while showcasing their signature cocktails through spirited live events. In the wake of COVID-19, our beloved bars and restaurants are now closed, and like most public gatherings big and small, the first two Bartender in Residence events, which were scheduled to take place in New York and Chicago, have been canceled.
While nothing can replace coming together over drinks to meet the new class of talented bartenders in person, PUNCH and Fever-Tree, the program’s lead sponsor, wanted to show their support by pledging to donate a portion of the Bartender in Residence production budget to local charities selected by the four featured bartenders. “We knew for certain that we needed to keep the spirit of this community thriving together,” says Amanda Stackman, the U.S. marketing director for Fever-Tree. “By empowering our bartenders to create meaningful local impact we are helping to ignite a shift to be part of the solution and help us all move forward united with strength.”
Each of the featured bartenders—Shannon Tebay and Natasha Bermudez in New York, and Vincent Bright and Richard Beltzer in Chicago—have selected local charities whose mission statements each have personal resonance. Here, find out what the Class of 2020 Bartenders in Residence have been doing with their newfound downtime, and why they chose each of the organizations they’re supporting.
Shannon Tebay | Death & Co., New York | Charity: Henry Street Settlement
Like many people over these past weeks, Shannon Tebay, head bartender at New York’s famed Death & Co., has been trying to keep her world in balance by tapping back to her former pastry world experience, while also taking part in a bartender virtual book club dubbed DaiquiReads. “I miss my colleagues the most,” says Tebay. “We’ve managed to stay communicative and check in on each other, but there’s nothing like the camaraderie of pushing through a busy night of service together. That’s going to feel really good when this is all said and done.” With Death & Co. being a part of Manhattan’s Lower East Side community for over a decade, she chose the Henry Street Settlement as her charity. “As a team, we chose to begin working in conjunction with the Henry Street Settlement as a way of reinvesting in our beloved neighborhood,” says Tebay. “Their mission is to provide opportunities to Lower East Side residents through social services, arts and health care programs. This neighborhood is our home and its people are our neighbors and friends. It’s our responsibility and privilege to take care of one another.”
Natasha Bermudez | Llama San, New York | Charity: NYSYLC
At Llama San, the popular West Village restaurant focused on the Peruvian-Japanese cuisine known as Nikkei, head bartender Natasha Bermudez has perfected a culinary-minded cocktail menu that leans on ingredients from Japan and South America. During this unexpected downtime, she’s been keeping busy creating new cocktails and dishes with her fiancée and tending to the many plants in her apartment. But the Santo Domingo native longs for this to be over so she can travel to the Dominican Republic to visit her family. For her featured charity, Bermudez picked New York State Youth Leadership Council, a local organization that supports undocumented youth. In the wake of COVID-19, NYSYLC has been advocating for undocumented restaurant workers who have been laid off. “The reason I chose it is because our government is doing very little, or close to nothing, to help the large community of undocumented folks that make a grand portion of our restaurant workers,” says Bermudez. “Personally and professionally, it is the least I could do to give back to those who have some of the hardest jobs within our restaurants.”
Vincent Bright | Lost Lake, Chicago | Charity: Support Staff
For his charity, Lost Lake bartender Vincent Bright selected Support Staff. Their community-based Comp Tab Relief Fund was launched by an alliance of hospitality professionals to offer financial support to greater metropolitan Chicago hospitality workers affected by closures related to COVID-19. “There’s very little attention or assistance for the undocumented workers with whom we share this industry, and without whom this industry would not be able to function,” says Bright. “Support Staff is specifically extending financial assistance to those without existing support systems.” Bright, who grew up in a single-parent household on the South Side of Chicago, never forgets how hard his mother had to work every day to support her family. “My mom didn’t have access to the same resources I am able to tap, and I’m grateful to be able to raise awareness.” One of the things Bright misses most right now is Marcela’s, a café two blocks from his house, where he would stop by several times a week for breakfast and “the perfect café con leche.” With Lost Lake closed, he’s taken up running to make up for the number of steps he’d accumulate nightly during a typical shift. “Getting out of the house and going for a run has been a nice change of pace, but nothing compares to spending a Saturday night totally weeded in the service bar,” he says. “I’m strangely looking forward to that feeling once it’s safe for us to crowd a bar again.”
Richard Beltzer | Bad Hunter, Chicago | Charity: Support Staff
Richard Beltzer, a bartender at Bad Hunter, a vegetarian- and vegan-centric restaurant in Chicago’s West Loop, has worked alongside Support Staff’s founders Mony Bunni, Kristina Magro and Laura Kelton at different points while tending bar in Chicago. “They have built a foundation of giving resources to those who need them the most,” says Beltzer, who praises Support Staff’s ongoing focus on overturning the perceived stigmas of mental health issues and offering bar and restaurant owners the tools they need to help their staffs. “They are like-minded individuals who care for the future of the Chicago hospitality community,” he says.
In a way, Beltzer had a trial run of shutting down a business, when in November 2018 Bad Hunter had to close its doors for seven months due to a fire. “It was difficult, but we pushed each other to try and push through the uncertainty,” recalls Beltzer. In his time away from the bar, the multitasking Beltzer keeps busy by revisiting music theory and playing his violin, along with pursuing his interests in photography and videography, but he longs to be back behind the bar. “This is the career path that I have chosen and I have put in all I can for the future of this industry,” says Beltzer. “I cannot wait to rebuild it once we are able to.”