Pull up a Stool: Two Barstool Fund Recipients in PA Share Their Stories

Santa Claus has returned to the North Pole, but Portnoy-Claus and The Barstool Fund continue to bring good cheer.

On Dec. 17, Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, announced that Barstool started a relief fund to help small businesses that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and are struggling to continue operating. Currently, The Barstool Fund has raised just over $23 million. Portnoy seeded the fund with $500,000 of his own money.

To date, 126 small businesses, including eleven in Pennsylvania, have received a call from Portnoy, who told them they will be receiving aid from The Barstool Fund.

Two of the Pennsylvania businesses shared their story with PlayPennsylvania.

Flanigan’s Boathouse gets a boost from Barstool

Fayette Street in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, about a half hour outside of Philadelphia, is dotted with a variety of bars and restaurants. Each year, revelers from the St. Patrick’s Day parade fill the streets to celebrate. However, like pretty much everything in 2020, the parade was cancelled due to the coronavirus. It was the first major blow in what would be a series of devastating hits to small businesses and restaurants on Fayette Street and every Main Street in America.

Flanigan’s Boathouse is one of the restaurants on Fayette Street in Conshohocken that would be filled on St. Patrick’s Day. Flanigan’s Boathouse, in business for over thirty years, would have also been busy with guests enjoying their signature wings for March Madness and then to watch the Philadelphia Flyers and Sixers embark on their playoff run in the spring. Instead, restaurants in the state had to close indoor indoor dining and pivot to takeout only.

In a letter to The Barstool Fund, Brittany Weber wrote about the restaurant that her parents, Jamie and Bill Weber, co-own. She said that the impact of recent restrictions have been crippling and they had to tap into Bill’s life insurance.

On Jan. 1, Jamie Weber received the call from Portnoy who said they would be receiving aid from The Barstool Fund.

Devastating for restaurants

Jamie Weber said prior to receiving the call, she knew of Portnoy from his “One Bite” pizza reviews. The shutdown orders for indoor dining were devastating, but she understands that people’s health and well-being comes first. The most recent indoor dining restrictions in December came with little warning, which left restaurants little time to plan for inventory and staffing.

“I can’t even tell you how devastating…” Jamie says, before pausing for a beat.

In the application to The Barstool Fund, Brittany explained how her family’s livelihood depends on the restaurant.

“Flanigan’s Boathouse is everything to us. I do not know what we will do if we do not survive as a business. My family has already faced heartbreaking, devastating, and unthinkable loss. My parents are the hardest-working people I know, and they deserve the chance to save the business that our family has dedicated the past 31 years to. One thing I know for sure is that no matter what, we will keep fighting.”

On receiving the call with the news from Portnoy, Jamie said:

“It was unbelievable. I have a lot of faith. Sometimes I feel like we don’t deserve it because there are so many businesses struggling and I wish I could wave a wand and spread it to everyone. It’s something that is very much needed to keep our business afloat and our employees working.”

Jamie described how the restaurants in Conshohocken are a tight-knit family, expressed her thanks to the community, and repeated how “unbelievable” it was to be chosen.

“It’s important to get the word out about this…how Portnoy and others have come together to help small businesses when our government can’t even do it. It’s amazing to me.”

Jack’s Spot in Pitman

It was a rough ending to a trying year for Nick Hoffman and Melissa Hoffman-Long, husband and wife co-owners of Jack’s Spot in Pitman, Pennsylvania.

Restrictions on indoor dining took away a busy holiday season and parties being held at the restaurant. On Christmas, the sump pump broke and the basement at Jack’s Spot flooded. Nick replaced the sump pump and cleaned the basement.

“It was the worst perfect end to 2020 ever,” says Melissa in her application to The Barstool Fund.

Melissa and the team at Jack’s Spot kept fighting. She embodies the words and spirit of Rocky Balboa and teachers when their kids pack their books prematurely -“I didn’t hear no bell.”

The hard left hook from the sump pump wouldn’t leave Jack’s Spot on the mat. Melissa was determined to see her application to The Barstool Fund through.

“If I don’t see this through, I’ll never know. You don’t know you are the end of something. I still feel this is almost a miracle that this came through. Throughout my life, I always believe something will shake out and that it wasn’t the end for things. I’m not failing here. You have to keep looking for it and try different things.”

Since shutdown orders were enacted in March, Melissa and the team at Jack’s Spot have pivoted to takeout and made other operating adjustments. Also, she praised the community and their staff for their ongoing support. Melissa has tried to stay positive, giving pep talks to Nick and the team at Jack’s Spot. It’s hard to operate on 50% capacity or takeout only. Bar sales, especially between 9 p.m. – midnight, are the most profitable for a restaurant. Food costs and labor are expensive.

Jack’s Spot gets rave reviews for their friendly atmosphere and menu selection. They are known for their wings, burgers and salads.

Staying afloat, end of the rope

Melissa teaches high school science for Agora Cyber Charter School. It gives her flexibility to be at the restaurant in the evening and do the marketing. Nick also has a full-time job outside of the restaurant.

“It’s a part of the reason we are still operating,” said Melissa. “Not having to take a salary has allowed us to stay operating throughout this whereas other restaurants haven’t been that fortunate.”

Melissa has spent many hours applying for different types of aid for the restaurant and said the process for The Barstool Fund was much more streamlined.

“All of the PPP Loan applications, all the things we filled out, aren’t user-friendly. A lot of people in this industry don’t have the experience to handle this. It’s been a huge mountain to climb and we got very little funding from the government. We were definitely at the end of our rope. I didn’t think I had it in me to apply for one more thing to not have it come to fruition.”

Melissa followed Barstool on Instagram but it’s not where she heard about The Barstool Fund. Word-of-mouth still has power. A husband of a teacher who Melissa had been keeping in touch with mentioned it and sent along the information.

“I was beginning to think we bit off more than we could chew and this wasn’t going to work out. I’m still in shock. We feel so incredibly fortunate. I can’t believe I took a shot in the dark and it came through. I kept pursuing all options. Something had to work in our favor. We literally had reached the end of our rope with end-of-year bills and feel beyond lucky. It makes me so happy every day when I see more businesses the Fund is helping.”

Jack’s Spot gets call from The Barstool Fund

Penn National makes million-dollar donation

Last week, Penn National Gaming donated $1 million to the Barstool Fund. From Jan. 9-11, Penn National’s two casinos in the Commonwealth – Hollywood Casino and The Meadows – matched first time bets with a donation to the Barstool Fund. Also, new users at the Barstool sportsbook app had their first deposit matched with a donation.

Pennsylvania businesses get help from The Barstool Fund

Barstool teamed with the PA-based nonprofit 30 Day Fund to dole out the money according to a tweet from Barstool CEO Erika Nardini.

The full list of businesses supported to date is here, and you can also watch Portnoy’s FaceTime calls to the business owners on Portnoy’s Twitter. If you didn’t cry enough in 2020 or need a dose of dopamine, the videos are genuinely uplifting.

Pennsylvania businesses selected for the Barstool Fund:

Portnoy pushes for donations

Tired of waiting for the government to step up, Portnoy is on a crusade to save small businesses which have been devastated by coronavirus closures. Not only did he put up $500k, he has been pounding the virtual pavement to raise funds.

Portnoy, a Master Chef-level pot stirrer, has leveraged his take-no-prisoners personality at times when it comes to fundraising. He’s called out various people including the New York Yankees in response to committing “$50,000 in winter spending with local businesses around Yankee Stadium.”

Portnoy also called out to Darren Rovell, Elon Musk, and Roger Goodell.

Some familiar names who have already pledge support include Tom Brady, Jon Taffer and Flyers forward Kevin Hayes.

How to apply for The Barstool Fund

Companies can apply for assistance with needs such as rent or tax payments by sharing their stories by email ([email protected]). However, they must have continued to pay their employees throughout the pandemic.

“Each month, we will continue to cut you a check for how much you need to stay in business ‘til this thing’s over. I don’t care how I get the money. If I need to raise more money, if I need to pay it myself,” said Portnoy.

Barstool’s path to PA and stock surge

Wyomissing-PA based Penn National Gaming acquired a 36% stake in Barstool Sports, a digital sports media company, for $163 million in Feb. 2020. The much-anticipated Barstool sportsbook app through its partnership with Hollywood Casino arrived in Pennsylvania in mid-September.

In November, its second full month, Barstool took $55.86 million in wagers, a small decrease from about $61 million in October. It was third behind only FanDuel and DraftKings in terms of handle and market share. Figures for December should be out at the end of the week for Pennsylvania sports betting.

$PENN stock crossed the $100 a share threshold earlier this month and hit a record $105.95 yesterday. It’s quite a rise for a stock that had dropped below $4 a share last March in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company’s online betting presence during the pandemic and their share of the Barstool Sports brand which is rolling out across jurisdictions appears to have fueled the turnaround. Penn National also has Hollywood online casino and BetMGM online casino and sportsbook operating under its PA gaming licenses.

Lead image credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

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