I’ve likely said this before, but it bears repeating.
When the pandemic’s lock-down doo-doo hit the fan blades, many in the local food and drink business were either catatonic (and understandably so; my empathy for them abounds), or, bizarrely, eager to dismiss hundreds of years of scientific achievement at the drop of a narcissistic and self-serving cap (purely inexcusable, then as now).
That’s when the LEE Initiative made the biggest pivot of all and organized in a remarkably short time to help people who were in need.
What a concept.
Joe Phillips followed suit at Pints&union. He put people before profit and ran toward the fire. He converted the business into The Lee Initiative’s relief outpost in SoIN. He ran himself ragged during the “business as usual” down time. He wasn’t coming in every day and asking whether he was getting the credit and publicity. He did what was right, when it was needed.
Now Joe is doing it again, in conjunction with Steven Cavanaugh, our new general manager. Pints&union has safety protocols and socially-distanced indoor occupancy. We are enforcing safety, and our patrons get it. They know it’s better to err on the side of caution during a public health emergency than to be the agent of dysfunction. We know better than to relax, but so far, it’s going well.
Speaking personally, it is a joy to be an employee in an atmosphere like this, one of integrity and respect.
Here’s what Joe had to say about it in a recent Edible Kentucky & Southern Indiana magazine article.
When the COVID-19 quarantine shut down local restaurants in March, we were devastated and silent. We all knew it was coming, but to know it’s knocking at your door is a very different reality than watching others face it on social media or television. We were shell-shocked for two days—then realized we needed to get back to work, somehow.
Knowing our perishable food would go bad, we donated it to our workers who were suddenly out of work. We needed a sense of purpose; we needed to give back to the workers who have been providing hospitality to our communities every day for years.
Chef Edward Lee and Lindsey Ofcacek, founders of the LEE Initiative, gave us that opportunity with the Restaurant Workers Relief Program. Thanks to a donation from Maker’s Mark Distillery, we gathered essential household items and served hot meals to feed laid off restaurant workers and their families every day. There are no words to fully describe what it felt like to experience the gratitude of the many service workers who received support and love during this scary time. With additional donations, we joined forces with 610 Magnolia, Lee’s flagship Louisville restaurant, to serve Louisville industry workers while still keeping tabs on the people we served in New Albany, Indiana. The streets were empty but our hearts were full, serving over 200 people per week. The program expanded to 18 other cities in the U.S., providing over 275,000 meals.
Moving forward, we are working with the LEE Initiative’s Restaurant Reboot Relief Program, a $1 million commitment to purchase produce from local farmers for restaurants to create more sustainable food supply chains. Restaurants that have hosted restaurant-worker relief centers will receive the food and help select other local restaurants to participate.
This remains a trying time for all of us. I have witnessed firsthand amazing beauty from great loss. I have seen open doors and hearts, open minds and people united for a greater sense of purpose. We look forward to enduring this time, coming out stronger together.
Joe Phillips, Owner
Pints & Union Restaurant
114 East Market St.
New Albany, IN 47150
Learn more about The LEE Initiative Restaurant Relief Program, Restaurant Reboot Relief Program, McAtee Community Kitchen, Restaurant Regrow Program and Women Chefs Program.