Jeff Black runs some of the most recognizable restaurants in the Washington area, including BlackSalt in the Palisades and Pearl Dive Oyster Palace on 14th Street NW. But he’s also a Houston native who has both family and businesses in the city that’s now, basically, underwater in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Black’s family is “all fine,” says the chef and restaurateur, although his father had to be evacuated from his planned community outside Houston after it was inundated with 10 feet of water. Black’s worries are now focused on the hospitality industry in the Bayou City, including Tacos A Go Go, a small chain of taquerias in which Black is a partner. Two locations of Tacos A Go Go still remain closed, largely because employees can’t get to work.
Some employees have lost everything, Black says, and some haven’t been affected at all.
To help hospitality employees across Houston, the Black Restaurant Group will add a hurricane-relief donation line to checks at all its properties, including Pearl Dive, BlackSalt, Black Jack, Tilt Side Bar, Black’s Bar & Kitchen, Black Market Bistro, Republic and the recently relaunched Addie’s. Contributions will be tax-deductible because they’ll run through the Black’s Family Foundation, which Jeff and Barbara Black created to help build a kitchen at the Children’s National Medical Center. The foundation, Jeff Black says, will match relief donations dollar for dollar, up to $100,000.
The restaurants and bars will collect donations for two weeks, starting Thursday and running through Sept. 14, until BRG reaches its goal of $200,000. Jeff Black emphasizes that you don’t have to visit a restaurant to donate. The Black’s Family Foundation will accept checks via mail at 7752 Woodmont Ave., Suite 201, Bethesda, Md. 20814. The foundation also has a donation button on its website.
The Tacos A Go Go team is still vetting charities and organizations in Houston for the final donation. Among the possibilities, Black says, is the Texas Restaurant Association, which would help guarantee that the money is directed to the restaurant employees most affected by Harvey. (Tacos A Go Go, incidentally, has also been feeding tacos to first responders and doctors on call at Houston Methodist Hospital.)
“I think we can make a pretty good impact,” Black says.
Others in the D.C. food and beverage community are rallying around their colleagues in Houston, too. On Saturday, more than 25 restaurants, bars and distilleries/breweries will donate all, or part, of their proceeds to the American Red Cross’s relief efforts in Southeast Texas. The participating venues include Boundary Stone, DC Brau, 3 Stars Brewing, Old Ebbitt Grill, Brookland’s Finest, New Columbia Distillers, DC9, All-Purpose Pizzeria, 1905 and many others.
What’s more, organizers Gareth Croke and Colin McDonough (owners of Boundary Stone) and Brandon Skall (co-owner of DC Brau) are encouraging their peers around the District to join in the one-day fundraiser. Those interested businesses should contact Skall at brandon@DCBrau.com. Organizers hope to raise at least $25,000 for the Red Cross. Donations are also being taken online on the group’s CrowdRise page.
Kathy Hollinger, president and chief executive of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, says its members continue to find ways to help people in Southeast Texas. PRG Hospitality, the company behind such establishments as Lincoln and Declaration, will donate a portion of its sales over Labor Day weekend to the American Red Cross, and Mountain Valley Spring Water is sending two trailer trucks loaded with water to Texas. Other businesses, such as RareSweets and Hill Country, are also stepping up for the cause. RAWM is maintaining a list of restaurants and businesses that are contributing to relief efforts.
Five to One, Trevor Frye’s new U Street bar, has already stepped up to the plate. Five to One hosted a fundraiser Monday night that raised just shy of $1,000. Frye and his team initially thought they’d donate the cash to the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild, but after further deliberation, they decided to donate to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner established for contributions.
Expect more relief efforts from Five to One, too, Frye says. “I’ve got a lot of friends in Houston who, I know, are absolutely devastated.”
There are other efforts still in development in Washington, including one promotion, #DineOut4Houston, that will feature restaurants owned and operated by Andy Shallal (Busboys and Poets), José Andrés (Jaleo, Zaytinya, Minibar, Beefsteak and others) and Michael Babin (Iron Gate, Red Apron, Bluejacket and others).
We will update this story with more details as they arise.