Bartender finds unique way to help co-workers survive pandemic, shutdowns

ROSS TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Perhaps no industry has been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than the restaurant industry. According to federal data, food and drinking places lost more than 17,000 jobs in November as new COVID-19 restrictions went into place.

“As soon as I heard about a mandated shutdown again for dine-in restaurants, I knew it was going to be hard. The rumors were circulating. They kept coming and going, that it was going to shut down again,” Angel Sipes said. “Nobody thought it would be that close to the holiday.”

Sipes works at the Cheesecake Factory at Ross Park Mall. She posted a message on her Facebook page asking for help for employees at the restaurant and said she was overwhelmed with the response.

“I raised a little over $3,000 just through various money sources like Venmo, PayPal. It just kept coming in. I though I was going to end up, you know, with a couple hundred bucks and we’d be able to do a few things but $3,000 goes a long way,” Sipes said.

All of the employees were able to get gift cards, cooked meals and the chance to pick through items they needed to get by.

“It felt good to let the people that do the same job that I do know that they weren’t forgotten about. So often, you know, they’re just service industry workers and everybody just assumes they’re college kids,” she said. “These are families. These are real working people who are home virtually educating their children right now.”