A new grassroots effort, Utah Tip Challenge, has formed to collect funds through Venmo to donate to service staff at a different restaurant each week. In its inaugural week, $1000 was raised by mostly modest contributions to a dedicated Venmo account. As an unexpected surprise for staff, organizers donated funds at Boneyard Saloon & Wine Dive in Park City upon finishing their lunch on August 15th. UTC’s mission is to help hospitality workers through financial challenges that have resulted from the pandemic.

Local transportation company owner Sam Rubin was inspired by a similar initiative in Nashville started in May by Lexy Kadey. In a recent week, she raised in excess of $45,000 and donated to nearly 40 individuals. She now has 860,000 followers on TikTok where she posts emotional videos of donations being given. 

“Knowing that the hospitality industry is a disproportionately impacted one, I wanted to launch a fundraising effort for this community,” says Rubin. “Instead of giving to a single individual; however, the management of each establishment we visit can use their discretion on how to disperse the funds to their staff. Small donations are welcome, and I’d love to see the contributions grow each week. It’s a feel good effort that makes a difference, and it’s truly rewarding to see the emotional reaction from staff.”

Boneyard Saloon & Wine Dive was chosen for the first week’s donation because owner Jesse Shetler has long been known for giving back to the Park City community with free Thanksgiving dinners and season-ending parties for locals. He also has been donating proceeds of DBR Restaurants (No Name Saloon, Butcher’s Chop House & BR, and Boneyard Saloon & Wine Dive) gift card sales to his staff during the pandemic. 

Shetler gratefully says, “I am very excited for the Boneyard staff and appreciate the recognition of all the hard-working folks in this struggling environment. These are unprecedented and excessively challenging times. Along with other small business models, the hospitality industry can only survive this with the support of our community. This is exactly what it looks like when community comes together.”

Anyone wishing to suggest a restaurant or bar whose staff is in need, can email utahtipchallenge@gmail.com or reach out through Facebook or Instagram. The donation period each week runs from Friday at 5 p.m. to Friday 5 p.m. Restaurants in both Salt Lake City and the Park City area will be considered by organizers, and they will not be notified in advance. 

Individuals and businesses are invited to contribute any amount as often as they wish via Venmo at @utahtipchallenge.