INDIANAPOLIS – The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated small businesses nationwide, include ones in Indiana.
To help provide financial assistance and support struggling businesses, the founder of Barstool Sports launched the Barstool Fund, which by Friday afternoon had already raised more than $20 million and helped about 100 small businesses.
According to the live-tracker on the fund’s website, more than 158,000 supporters had donated by Friday afternoon.
The sports blog’s founder announced the initiative on Dec. 17 and donated $500,000 of his own money to kick start the campaign of raising donations for small businesses.
He said this is a cause that anybody can get behind, supporting small businesses like mom and pop restaurants that are staples of communities across America.
Robin and Randy Lapidus, who own Special Dogs and More, said it was ‘overwhelming’ to find out they were chosen among thousands of businesses that submitted their application.
“When we got that call, you know we never dreamed that a little place like this would get that type of help from someone,” said Randy Lapidus.
Special Dogs and More employs individuals who are intellectually or mentally challenged and helps provide an environment that trains them for the workforce.
“Over 80 percent of those with mental, intellectual disabilities are unemployed so the numbers are huge,” said Lapidus. “A lot of them have the capability to work, they just need that training and support to help them build their confidence level.”
But sometimes even those doing great things for others need a hand, and in this case, the Barstool Fund and its donors stepped in to raise money for the restaurant.
“It also took a big burden off of our shoulders,” said Robin Lapidus. “No more of that going to bed at night wondering what we were gonna do to cover payroll or cover the bills if business didn’t pick up.”
Barstool Sports told CBS4 the restaurant was a standout choice to be a recipient of the fund, based on the amazing work they do to help so many members of the community.
“It’s actually surreal that a company like that would ever be in the position to need money in the first place,” they said.
The Lapidus’ said the pandemic has been an ‘up-and-down’ roller coaster, with many difficult weeks. “50 percent capacity in a restaurant like this, ours means we can probably have about 20 customers in our restaurant at one time. That’s not enough to sustain a restaurant.”
“We talked about hope. We always keep the faith and we always think positive and we always turn those lemons into lemonade, but you know, to be able to see that light at the end of the tunnel especially for our employees,” said Lapidus, “It’s what you want in life. You want to be able to look ahead.”
They said the effort by Barstool Sports and the many donors contributing to the fund is an honest effort to help many businesses impacted by the pandemic.
“This is about saving the mom and pop American businesses which are the backbone of America,” said Lapidus.
The Rathskeller Restaurant in Downtown Indianapolis was also hand selected by the fund, and the business’ owner said Friday, fighting tears, that this is helping his business move forward after a particularly difficult year in 2020.
“I’m emotional now but you should have seen me last night when I learned about this. When I learned about it and everybody started calling me it just was overwhelming,” said Dan McMichael, owner of The Rathskeller.
Barstool Sports told CBS4 the restaurant received dozens of submissions, supporting the business and nominating them to be a Barstool Fund recipient.
“It’s been extremely tough here lately and you know, quite frankly, we’re just not making the bills,” said McMichael. “This money means everything in the world to us right now because we’re able to keep the people employed.”
McMichael said his business was in a similar situation to many struggling businesses across the United States this past year.
“It means a lot to me and everyone else. I watched a lot of the other business owners last night tell their story and they were emotional as well and I felt like I was in the same boat as everybody,” he said.
In addition to the dozens of submissions by supporters of The Rathskeller, his own management also submitted a video, sharing why they hoped to be chosen.
“You can really tell how much it means to us to work here. My boss is super emotional about it, all of us are,” said Madison Yoder, one of the special events coordinators and managers at The Rathskeller.
She said it means everything to the business to be selected. “This is an establishment here in Indianapolis and it would be detrimental to everybody if we had to close our doors.”
“This is the first step in helping us be able to stay open, keep supporting the community,” said Yoder.
McMichael said he is humbled by the many generous donors that have stepped up to support businesses through this fund, including those in Indiana.
“All of us are struggling right now in this nation and it really is neat to see people step up and be kind like this. It’s what we are made of in America,” he said, “I can’t thank Dave and all of the donors enough.”
“By going ahead and having this little bit of help, it now gives us a little bit to see what we can look forward to once this pandemic is over and planning for things in the future that we can do,” said Lapidus.
“I really want to thank everybody for the continued support and for helping us make it through this pandemic,” he said.
Barstool Sports said it hopes to continue raising money for as long and as hard as they can through the generous donations of people everywhere.
They said their hope is to continue supporting small businesses for as long as the donations continue, ensuring that the help doesn’t disappear for businesses in need.
For more information on the Barstool Fund and how you can contribute, you can click here.