As Restaurants Innovate to Pay Employees During Pandemic, Deep Ellum Eatery Adds Service Charge

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With the number of customers at Deep Ellum’s Bucky Moonshine’s slashed in half, owner Ivan “Bucky” Pugh has felt the weight of COVID-19.

“You start worrying about money. Then you start worrying about your staff. Then you start going, like, is it ever going to end? I mean, it’s been like a rollercoaster,” said Pugh.

Like others in his industry, he’s had to think outside of the box to keep his restaurant afloat.

Over the last several months, that’s included new family packs, their own farmer’s market and Wednesday night specials.

“Whatever it takes to bring people in the door,” said Pugh.

That includes doing whatever it takes to make sure his employees get paid.

Last week, Pugh posted a note on his door letting diners know there would be a 15% service charge added to their bills.

“We were so busy before the pandemic that we’d have one person that would have to tip 30, 40% to make up for the people that tipped 5% or nothing. So, it was really never a problem. Great tippers offset bad tippers or no tippers,” said Pugh.

At least they did until capacity was reduced.

Now with fewer diners, Pugh said there have been days where some of his servers averaged less than $6.00 an hour.

“They’ve always been like my kids, so you know, if I have to go have a garage sale and give them money for rent, then that’s what you do,” said Pugh.

Or in this case, risk dissatisfied customers.

Pugh had worried about potential backlash over the service fee. But for the most part, he said that doesn’t seem to be the case.

In addition, wages are up 30% in one week’s time.

Pugh said he doesn’t plan to leave the fee in place forever. Still, he hopes it serves as a reminder to customers.

“Tipping is not an option. It’s how these people make their living. It’s how they pay their bills,” said Pugh.  

And though he’s eager for life and business to return to normal, he’ll continue doing whatever he can to make sure that happens until it does.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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