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Help Your Servers Avoid Being "86'd"

By Paul Leddy in Food on Jun 21, 2013 4:20PM

The UN86'd logo features a pineapple, which has been a symbol of hospitality since the days of the early American colonies.
Imagine being a regular at your favorite restaurant. You have a favorite table, favorite dish, and even a favorite server that seems to anticipate your every need. In fact, you plan your visits to the restaurant when the server is working because they take such good care of you.

Now imagine that you arrive to the restaurant one evening to find that your server is not working. When you inquire, the staff mentions that they had an accident on the way home and will not be back to work for a few weeks. You feel terrible, but as you sit down to dinner, you know you will see them again in no time.

The problem is that the server is sitting at home not making any money. More than likely, they do not have insurance and, since they rely on tips for income, the bills are piling up. Dealing with an incapacitating injury can be tough, but to also have to deal with the growing debt associated with not working, can be unbearable.

Two restaurant workers in Chicago are looking to help relieve that stress. Nicole Ess and Jessy Maguire Bolt have created a charity called Un86’d that aims to help all people in the service industry, from front of the house to the back of the house, who need assistance due to an injury or illness.

“Nicole and I have known each other for five years and worked together at The Gage,” recalls Bolt. “One night, Nicole and I were talking and I was reading about how restaurant workers in New York have a union going where they apply for low health-care rates and Nicole mentioned that she has this idea for a charity, and even had a name for it.”

“(In) restaurant jargon, “86” is to get rid of something,” Ess explains, “and we are doing the opposite, we are making sure that you are ok; we’re bringing you back.”

Since that discussion eight months ago, they have been working out the details on how the fund would work and applying for nonprofit status (their application for 501c status is still pending but all tax-deductible donations are retroactive after approval). Eventually, they want the organization to take a more important role. “Our overall goal is to create a ‘member-based’ community for all our supporters to belong to, much in the way of a donation to public radio station,” Bolt explains. “After you donate, you're then a member. If we can work together and gain as many ‘members’ as possible to Un86'd we hope to approach insurance providers and petition for low group rates for health insurance. Essentially, creating the same rate costs as would be available should an employer choose to provide it. Until then, we can only help guide your choice to get individual payer insurance plans and lay out the best options for your individual situation.”

While they are currently planning larger scale events and dinners to help raise money, they are currently raising money by offering a drink special at Carriage House and La Sirena Clandestina. Ask for the “Un-86’d” Cocktail ($12) and get a special cocktail made with Bacardi and Pineapple Cordial made specially by Todd Appel.

“The response has been wonderful and we are so grateful for everyone that has supported and reached out to us,” Ess says. “The feeling is that something like this was long over due and we are so happy to bring it to the city of Chicago. This industry already bonds so tightly together; it feels like a big family.”