Tennessee Action for Hospitality

In partnership with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, the recently-formed coalition has founded an assistance fund providing relief to individuals in need

These are unprecedented times for the Nashville area that began  with the tornadoes in early March and now the coronavirus pandemic that has shut our city down in ways none of us could have imagined. The toll on our thriving hospitality industry has been profound. Our local bartenders, servers, cooks and restaurant staff need your help. In partnership with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee a fund called TN for Action for Hospitality dot com has been established to help support hospitality professionals who cannot meet their financial oblations with unemployment alone. Please show them your support by making a donation of any amount. Go to TN for Action for Hospitality dot com and donate today. That’s TN for Action for Hospitality to donate now. And thank you, Music City. We’re all in this together.

Tennessee Action for Hospitality is a state-wide coalition of independent restaurant owners, hourly workers, and chefs that recently formed as a response to the crisis the hospitality industry is facing due to the public health and safety threat of COVID-19. In an effort to support hospitality professionals who plan to continue their career in Tennessee when the crisis is over, Tennessee Action for Hospitality has partnered with The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (CFMT) to create A Fund for Us, a fund that will provide swift relief to those who have lost their job, or seen a dramatic decrease in hours worked.

Through A Fund for Us, grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded to individuals who meet the criteria, as resources are available. CFMT will administer the fund on behalf of the coalition, following a two-part application process:

Qualifying Small Businesses must meet the following criteria:

  • Based in Tennessee, with an operating business license as of March 1, 2020.
  • Offers an experience centered upon enjoyment of high quality food and/or beverage, with an emphasis on restaurant service, employing both full-time front- and back-of-house workers.
  • The owner(s) of the establishment work full-time for their restaurant(s), bar(s), caterer(s), or restaurant group.
  • The owner(s) of the establishment were instrumental in the creation of their business, and are free from outside control by way of majority ownership–not publicly traded, a franchise, or chain.

Individual employees can then apply for grants based on the following critera:

  • Currently or most previously employed by a pre-qualified independent restaurant, caterer, or bar (as defined before).
  • Someone who plans on re-entering the hospitality industry at the end of this public health crisis.
  • Someone for whom hospitality pay is at least 80% of their income.
  • Someone who had worked for their most recent employer a minimum of six months.
  • No limit on household members.
  • Individuals who make under $85,000 annually

The importance placed specifically on employees of independent restaurants and bars is to preserve what cannot be replaced—establishments that create culture—by providing assistance to those professionals who may not qualify for other need-based funds, but who cannot meet their financial obligations by unemployment alone. Anyone who considers themselves a part of the independent hospitality industry is welcome to apply—from caterers and banquet workers to bartenders, servers, restaurant managers, line cooks, dishwashers, and more—and CFMT will choose those who are the best fit for funding based on need. Tennessee Action for Hospitality chose to partner with The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that it has a state-wide network. CFMT will act as an impartial third party that can administer A Fund for Us fairly and according to the coalition’s criteria. Both qualifying and non-qualifying applicants will receive guidance from the foundation’s Employee Assistance team regarding other available resources. While there are many worthwhile funds through national organizations, A Fund for Us sets itself apart by specifically serving individuals from the hospitality sector in the state of Tennessee.

Restaurants can register by visiting https://cfmt.formstack.com/forms/tnaction4hospitality_business


The individual application will be open online starting April 13.
“Our friends in the hospitality industry are an integral piece to making Nashville thrive and are woven into the fabric of this community,” says Ellen Lehman, president of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. “We collectively have to do everything we can to help the independent restaurateurs, bartenders, dishwashers, managers, cooks, and servers as they weather this terrible economic storm with us. Together, we are Nashville. Together, we are Tennessee.” A Fund for Us was initiated through generous contributions from Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery and Cool Springs Wines & Spirits. Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee, a statewide trade association of Tennessee wine and spirits distributors (including Athens Distributing Company, Best Brands Incorporated, Beverage Control Inc, Empire Distributors Inc, Knoxville Beverage, Lipman Brothers, Triple
C Distributing, and West Tennessee Crown Distributing Co.) has pledged to match all consumer donations up to $200,000. Individual donations will be accepted online starting next week.


“It has been an unprecedented few weeks as our community faces historic challenges,” says Bret Moore, President and CEO of Cool Springs Wine. “Amid the stress and uncertainty, we want to support those in our industry who are profoundly affected by this crisis. We invite our fellow retailers, distributors, and suppliers to join us in this relief effort for workers in the on-premise industry.”

Charlie Nelson, President of Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, says, “The hospitality industry represents the cultural heartbeat of Tennessee, comprised of individuals who work tirelessly so we can all enjoy the company of our friends and family over a meal. This community has supported me and my business from day one, and without these amazing individuals, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

“The Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee are encouraged to see this important fund generate much needed help to our hospitality partners. Now more than ever we must band together and stand with our local businesses during these difficult times,” says Ryan Haynes, Executive Director of Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee. Those interested in making a corporate contribution to A Fund for Us should reach out to Marcia Masulla, who leads fundraising for Tennessee Action for Hospitality, or mail checks (payable to TN Action for Hospitality Fund) to the address below:


The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee
P.O. Box 440225
Nashville, Tennessee 37244
Marcia Masulla: marcia@roarnashville.com

Julia Sullivan, co-owner and chef of Henrietta Red and The Party Line, has been a voice for the coalition since its formation. She says, “Food and beverage service in Tennessee is an important piece of a supply chain that supports not only restaurant professionals, but hundreds of ancillary services from florists, to distillers, to meatpackers. This is one thing we can do that will help – we can raise funds for ourselves, to help our employees through this, to reopen our businesses so they (and you) have a place to come home
to. We can weave a safety net so that next time a tornado hits, next time we close to stop the spread of a disease, next time the planet rears up to make us all sit down, we have a life raft that we built. Together.”


Sean Brock, a James Beard Award-winning chef and cookbook author and Nashville restaurateur adds, “The hospitality industry and the people that make it so special are suffering more than words can describe. So many people have asked how they can help. Tennessee Action for Hospitality provides a meaningful way to contribute to people who need it the most right now. Our people need help as quickly as possible and a donation will make a big difference in someone’s life.”

Kahlil Arnold, owner and chef of Nashville’s beloved Arnold’s Country Kitchen has been an advocate for the group since its inception. “When I think of the restaurant business, I think of family. Not just the families we serve, but the family within the four walls of our restaurant. From the couple who came in to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary on one of the last days we had the dining room open to our staff who have been with us for decades, who are still here now trying to keep the restaurant from disappearing. It’s times like these I remember I’m lucky to have three families: my customers, my employees, and those I love at home. I appreciate all of my customers who have reached out and offered support to not just me but everyone in the restaurant community – because of you, we have a fighting chance to keep these families alive.”

On March 18, 2020, Tennessee Action for Hospitality drafted a letter to Governor Bill Lee, stating the importance of providing aid to the restaurant industry, and invited the public to join them by sending their own letter and personal note to Tennessee state legislators through the group’s online form. Two weeks in, the form has been completed more than 3,800 times, with each legislator receiving an individual email per form. While still in progress, a handful of requests from the letter were quickly met or addressed.