Just days after Hurricane Harvey pounded Houston and much of the Gulf Coast, and as storm victims begin returning home to assess the damage, the drinks community is rallying to collect donations for those in need.
Texas-based Shiner Beer has made a $500,000 contribution diversified among nonprofit organizations, including the Red Cross and United Way of Greater Houston, while Tito’s Vodka has committed to matching donations dollar for dollar up to $50,000 to the Red Cross (you can contribute here). Treaty Oak Distilling in Dripping Springs hosted a fundraiser over Labor Day Weekend with proceeds also spread between various relief funds, and Anheuser Busch and Oskar Blues have sent more than 375,000 cans of water to affected areas, collectively. Starbucks also joined the efforts by donating a quarter of a million dollars (they’re also accepting donations at cafés around the country).
Meanwhile, bars everywhere are organizing fundraising and support efforts, and Texas bars are playing a central role. San Antonio bartender and Azar Family Brands regional director Christopher Ware organized a benefit to raise money through the local chapter of the U.S. Bartender’s Guild. More than 70 bars in San Antonio, Laredo, New Braunfels and Boerne chipped in proceeds from cocktail orders—totaling $50,000 to date—to the USBG National Charity Foundation. In Austin, bars including Half Step and Nickel City are collecting donations and hosting fundraising pop-ups to gather supplies and funds.
In Houston, Bobby Heugel (owner of bars including Anvil, Pastry War and Better Luck Tomorrow) put out a call on Facebook to rally bartenders across the country to mix Harvey Wallbangers and donate proceeds to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, using the hashtag #hurricaneharveywallbangers. Supporting the effort, Lucas Bols, the company that owns Galliano, will donate 100 percent of Galliano profits to the fund for the entire month of September. Since the post went up last week, bars around the country have joined the cause. Sweet Liberty in Miami, Rob Roy in Seattle, Manifesto in Kansas City and Lost Lake in Chicago are all participating; Jupiter Disco in New York has collected over $2,000 so far; and The Spare Room in Los Angeles raised more than $8,000 to date.
And these efforts are just the beginning. For some in New York, these efforts are a way to reciprocate the help they received after Sandy. For others, it’s simply the right thing to do. “The most fundamental form of hospitality is selflessly caring for others in need,” Heugel says. “Bars have a long and rich history of helping communities when they’re in trouble, and Houston needs help now more than ever. That there’s a cocktail called a ‘Harvey Wallbanger’ that could help people recover from a hurricane named ‘Harvey’ to me seems like fate.”