Food News

A Barbecue Joint and the CRA Receive Relief Funds

Wayne's Smoke Shack employees box up food for National Jewish Health in Denver.
Wayne's Smoke Shack employees box up food for National Jewish Health in Denver. Courtesy of Wayne's Smoke Shack
Help for restaurants and their employees is coming from unlikely sources these days, giving hope that laid-off industry workers can make it through the coronavirus crisis — and that restaurants will be around to rehire them.

The Colorado Restaurant Association has been at the forefront of providing critical information and support to its member restaurants, and it has also been using its Angel Relief Fund to provide money for restaurant workers suffering economic hardship because of job loss or reduced hours or pay. So far the fund has raised $400,000, but a recent donation of $1 million from the Kemper family foundations has allowed the CRA to set up the Independent Restaurant Workers Relief Fund. The money will be given out in one-time grants of up to $1,000 each for food and beverage hospitality workers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, are quarantined under a doctor's care, or are unable to receive government assistance. The grants will also be given out to unemployed, underemployed or furloughed industry workers.

While the Kemper donation will greatly improve the CRA's ability to provide relief for more workers, the organization is still accepting donations at As long as it has funds, it will continue making aid available to Colorado restaurants and their employees.

A Texas-style barbecue joint in Superior also received good news last week. Business has been limited at Wayne's Smoke Shack, located at 406 Center Drive in the north suburban town, because barbecue fanatics are unable to fill the restaurant's spacious dining room, and social distancing restricts the number of people waiting in line. Still, owner Wayne Shelnutt set up a fund to help his restaurant raise money to deliver barbecue to hospital workers in Boulder, Longmont and Denver; so far, he's raised more than $20,000 to keep the smoked meats and sides flowing to hungry front-line workers.

And Wayne's Smoke Shack recently got some help of its own: a $10,000 windfall from Kingsford Charcoal, which chose just 25 pit masters around the country to receive the donation as part of its #TogetherWithBBQ program. Wayne's opened in Superior in 2014 and doubled its footprint in 2018; the restaurant has consistently been one of the best barbecue joints in the metro area over the past six years.

Now that goodness has been recognized nationally. "Kingsford is the leading manufacturer of charcoal in the U.S., and we are really excited and honored to have been chosen for that, and to have been able to give back to the community during this time," says Wayne's operations manager Sam Hazan, who adds that the money will be used to help bring back employees and to cover rent and bills until Wayne's can reopen its dining room.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation