Brian Ball, a father and a server at the vegetarian-chic City, O' City since 2011, has no paid sick days and no paid time off. When he had a hernia-like abdominal problem on a plane trip from Las Vegas, he wound up in the emergency room for surgery. He was out of work for two weeks as bills pilled up.
"Brian Ball was one of our original hires when we reopened City, O' City in 2011 and has been with us diligently, on a regular basis, ever since," says City, O' City owner Dan Landes. "He's been a huge person in the Denver scene. He's been a big part of our community and our culture."
Like many restaurants, City, O' City does not offer paid sick time or paid days off. "If he's not working, he's not making money," Landes says.
So Ball's girlfriend, Heather Hildreth, and his ex-wife have joined forces to organize tonight's Brian Ballesque Fundraiser burlesque show at Deer Pile, above City, O' City, to raise funds to pay for Ball's health-care expenses.
Hildreth, a member of Punk Rock Burlesque, reached out to her fellow dancers for assistance while Ball couldn't work. They lined up, offering to bring Ball and Hildreth meals, and eventually offered to donate performances and artwork to auction off at the February 24 fundraiser.
"It's been this super-great community. When one of us needs help, everyone has been really great," Hildreth says. The lack of basic benefits in much of the restaurant industry is "a big bummer," she adds.
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"I know the owner of City, O' City has donated the space we're holding the event in. He's offered to help in any way that he can," she says. "It's got to be a hard situation being a server. If you're not at work, you're not making money. That's got to be stressful and hard. Seeing it firsthand, it's been rough. I'm lucky to have a job where I have paid vacation."
The restaurant is also donating desserts and gift cards for the raffle.
Despite the grim circumstances, Ball pledges that the show will be high-energy and fun, and she hopes that people unfamiliar with burlesque will come and learn about the art form. "It's all about body empowerment and self-acceptance and supporting other people in that journey, as well," she says.
The Brian Ballesque Fundraiser starts at 8 p.m. Friday, February 24, at Deer Pile, 206 East 13th Avenue. Admission costs $5 to $10. For more information, go to the event's Facebook page.