Molson Coors pledges $1 million to support bartenders affected by COVID-19 pandemic

Molson Coors Beverage Co. today pledged $1 million to the United States Bartenders' Guild, a nonprofit that supports bartenders and other service industry professionals, millions of whom are out of work due to widespread closures precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And Miller Lite is encouraging others to follow suit with a new social media campaign that directs drinkers to the USBG National Charity Foundation’s Bartender Emergency Assistance Program, a relief campaign that aids bartenders and other service professionals.

“Taps are off. But tips are needed,” opens a new social media video from Miller Lite, which includes a link where they can “donate to the millions out of work.”

The USBG National Charity Foundation, the charitable arm of the USBG, is offering emergency grants to bartenders and others who serve alcoholic beverages at bars, taverns and restaurants that hold full liquor licenses nationwide. The grants aim to help ensure workers, their spouses and children are able to purchase food and other necessary supplies; pay for rent and utilities; and medical bills.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 37 years in the beer business it’s that bartenders have always played a key role on the front lines selling our products,” said Kevin Doyle, president of U.S. sales for Molson Coors. “Over the years they’ve helped make our brands successful and it’s only right we give something back.”

The bedrock of the beer industry always has revolved around helping drinkers celebrate all of life’s moments together, said Anup Shah, vice president of the Miller family of brands. But because of the pandemic, it’s become more difficult for people to connect with friends and trusted bartenders over a beer, he said.

“At a time when we can’t connect in person, we want to show that we’re still connected to, and supportive of, our bar and restaurant community. Bartenders and service workers are essential to bringing people together, and Miller Lite is proud to support them as they’ve supported us for so many years,” Shah said. “We want to do our part to support the great people who make the industry what it is.”

The USBG relief campaign is one of dozens of national, regional and local efforts across the country to help workers affected by the suspension of dine-in services at bars and restaurants in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, also known as coronavirus. Thousands of service industry employees have had their hours cut, been furloughed or laid off within the last two weeks.

Global spirits company Beam Suntory and wholesaler Southern Glazer’s today also combined to pledge $1 million to the nonprofit and others, and Jameson, the Irish whiskey brand, earlier this week pledged $500,000. Spirits conglomerate Diageo, maker of Johnnie Walker whisky and Ketel One vodka, has donated $100,000, and SipScience, an analytics company focused on the hospitality industry, launched its own GoFundMe to raise $100,000 for the USBG.

Samuel Adams-maker Boston Beer Co. is donating $100,000 and will match donations up to an additional $100,000 through March 31 to benefit the Restaurant Strong Fund, a Massachusetts charity meant to help hourly and tip-supported restaurant workers.

Dozens of smaller distillers and brewers also have jumped into help during the pandemic, both via donations and other efforts.

Companies like Vikre Distillery in Duluth, Minn., Spirit Hound Distillers in Lyons, Colo., Copper Bottom Craft Distillery near Daytona Beach, Fla. and Atwater Brewery in Detroit, which Molson Coors agreed to purchase earlier this year, are using their distillation equipment to make hand sanitizer amid a shortage in many markets. And small brewpubs around the country have set up makeshift meal donation centers to help those in need.