A big name in Denver’s bar scene is delivering food to fuel an emergency fund for his laid-off employees

Sean Kenyon of Occidental, Williams & Graham and American Bonded fame figures he’s driven about 4,000 miles.
3 min. read
American Bonded. April 3, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Sean Kenyon is a familiar face in the local bar industry. He's a partner in Occidental, Williams & Graham and American Bonded, overseeing some 53 employees during regular times.

But these aren't regular times. After Kenyon laid off his employees when Denver's stay-at-home orders kicked in mid-March, he decided to hit the road, working for various delivery services to raise money for an emergency fund he created for his staff.

"All of them are receiving unemployment right now and are doing OK, but this is like an emergency backup plan," he said. "I mean for anyone that is in need that has rent to pay, your bills to pay or whatever it is, I'm just trying to do what I can because I can't afford, personally, to hand out my money, although I would."

He said he's made about $3,400. No employee has needed to tap the fund yet, but it's there if someone needs it, he said. And if there's money left when the staff is back at work, he'll donate it to a charity his employees chose.

He figured he's driven 4,000 miles in the last few weeks delivering lunches and dinner around Denver. He drives for whatever delivery company is paying the most at the time.

"I'll do lunch about three hours, like 11 to 2, I'll take a break at home, then I'll go from like 5 to 10, three or four days a week," he said.

Kenyon, who was named American Bartender of the Year in 2014, gets some quizzical looks from restaurant staff when he walks in to make his pickups.

"Many times they're surprised to see me because I haven't made a big deal about what we're doing ... Everybody all around is very grateful," he said. "A lot of the restaurants are stressed and some of them aren't able to handle the to-go volume that they're getting, but that's good -- that's a good problem to have."

Still, he says, he has no interest in joining the restaurants and bars that have stayed open just for pickup and delivery because he'd worry about his employees' health. Until there's been more social distancing "I don't trust bringing them all together," he said.

Like other restaurants and bars, his operate on a slim margin. Kenyon says his landlord and other creditors are letting his company delay payments while they're closed.

His worry now is what happens when stay-at-home orders are lifted. He figures Gov. Jared Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock will limit how many people the bars can serve, maybe to half the usual crowd.

"We write our business plans on 100 percent capacity, we don't write it on a half-full room," he said. That means once the federal government's loans are spent "we worry as to the viability of the businesses moving forward. But we'll adapt and thrive. We'll be fine."

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