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Salt Lake's 'Tip Your Server' raises nearly $600K, but has given out less than $150K

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Salt Lake's 'Tip Your Server' raises nearly $600K, but has given out less than $150K. (KUTV)

It’s had a celebrity face from the start; actor Ty Burrell cut a video in March and donated $100,000 as seed money for “Project Tip Your Server,” to give money to workers in Salt Lake’s restaurant industry out of work because of coronavirus.

Now, a month and a half later, the drive has taken in a load of funding but has given out less than a third of it.

“We’ve raised $576,000,“ said Dee Brewer of the Downtown Alliance, which is administering Tip Your Server. “Currently, $147,000 has been disbursed.”

In an interview with 2News, Brewer cited several reasons why the money has not been pushed out to furloughed servers and bartenders faster.

He said the “process” takes time—some pledged money had not been received, randomly chosen restaurants were responsible for selecting five worker recipients, and chosen workers need to submit paperwork.

Dalton Devore, a bouncer at Bar-X and Beer Bar, downtown establishments which are linked and owned in part by Burrell, says:

In my way of looking at it, it’s more of a publicity stunt."

“It seems like it would’ve been easiest for him to take care of his own bar, and then move (beyond that) to Salt Lake,“ said Paul Etuk, who told 2News he served as security manager for the establishments. He added the provision that restaurants choose which employees receive money sounded like a “schoolyard game.”

When Tip Your Server was announced, the reported aim was to give grants of $2,000 to laid-off restaurant and bar employees. Now, it’s $500 per worker.

Brewer said those involved decided on the lower amount to make the money go further.

“There’s a lot of overpromising, and under-delivery of (the program)“ said Devore, noting he knew of one person at Bar X and Beer Bar who received project funds.

Other owners, Duncan Burrell (Ty’s brother) and Richard Noel, said the bars operate under one license, which allowed them to distribute five Tip Your Server checks, which they said they did immediately.

They released a statement saying:

While we would love to be able to provide each of our employees' income during the COVID crisis, we, like many bars and restaurants across the world right now, are faced with the uncertainty as to how long this crisis will last and, ultimately, whether we will survive as a business,."