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Local Connecticut businesses get help from the Barstool Fund

In Hartford and Wallingford or East Hartford and Rocky Hill, Barstool Sports is helping local businesses get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

CONNECTICUT, USA — 2020, and now, 2021, have presented a lot of challenges. One industry hit particularly hard has been local businesses. 

Last May, The Washington Post reported that more than 100,000 small businesses had closed permanently due to the pandemic, now, almost one year later, the number of doors shutting, continues to rise. But, for some, hope is in sight thanks to one celebrity. 

Red Rock Tavern, a staple in Hartford, has been around since the 1930s.

"As my dad likes to say, it's Hartford's best-kept secret," said Red Rock Tavern Manager, Chelsey Mancini.

But, that secret stayed a secret when COVID-19 swept across our nation forcing life as we know it to come to a screeching halt. 

Red Rock Tavern had applied to The Barstool Fund, started by Dave Portnoy, an internet celebrity blogger who created the now-famous website, Barstool Sports, a company that has blown up, and is now worth millions.

"It's incredible," said Mancini. "It's like hitting the lottery for us."

Portnoy, or as some call him, El Presidente, is very passionate about small businesses staying alive. So, he created this fund to try to save as many as he could. 

Watch a FOX61 EXCLUSIVE interview with Portnoy below.

In order to apply, there are multiple steps. Businesses must disclose things like how much money you've lost, the number of employees you have, how many of those employees you had to lay off, how much longer you can survive at the current rate, and things of the like. 

"Oh, it's amazing," said Don Mancini, owner of Red Rock Tavern. "I was blown away that somebody at that stature would help average people. 

For Bobby Hilton, owner of the Yale Billiards in Wallingford, a kind friend nominated Hilton's business.

"Bobby was a groomsman at my wedding," said Vinny Gambardella, one of Hilton's close friends. "That's just from me going to the pool hall, and just talking, and ending up being really good friends, and that's just a testament to what the place is all about."

"Connecticut is such an amazing state to live in," said Hilton. "There are so many things happening in Connecticut when I got that call, it was like the weight was lifted off my shoulders a little, and be like I'm going to be able to get through this."

Each business receives a different amount of money that is calculated based on their application. That payment will then be a reoccurring payment until the economy stabilizes, and the pandemic is under control. 

"Every small business has different situations," said Maria Riopel, a manager at Laskara Restaurant. "We are all in the same boat right now, and everybody has lost hope, when I got that phone call, it was just incredible."

Riopel, said her parent's started this Wallingford restaurant, and being able to keep it alive brought tears of joy to her eyes. 

"It's a feeling that you have a ton of weight lifted off your shoulders for the first time in almost a year," said Riopel.

Elmer's Place, a staple in the New Britain community, was also lucky enough to get selected. 

"I got a random FaceTime on Saturday about 1:30 p.m.," said Michael Cook, he and his family own the popular eatery. "I answered it, and it was el près staring me in the face!"

Elmer's was also fortunate enough to get some extra help from the community when two people started a crowdfunding page to help save the treasured spot, and now they say, it's their turn to repay the favor.

"Our hope is that because we have been given this gift, that we'll be able to pay it forward once we can get established again, and give back to his fund, and be able to help another business," said Melissa Cook from Elmer's.

Looking for a good deli? Well, The New York Pickle Deli in Rocky Hill lives on.

"I remember the first day we closed it was scary," said Brittany Beckwith-Martinez, her father opened up the NYPD when he was just 23 years old. 

"It was emotional," said Brian Martinez, Brittany's husband who also works at the deli. "It was really emotional."

For the Beckwith family, the NYPD has always been a family affair.

"My mom has worked here my whole life as well, so I've worked here," said Brittany. "I remember I used to stand on like a milk carton to ring people out because I couldn't reach the register."

The same is true for Gaetano's Tavern on Main in Wallingford. 

"My sister and I own it," said Debby Pacilieo. "We've been in business, it'll be 18 years in February."

Pacilieo said she initially knew nothing about the fund.

"I had a customer that sent the link to me because he knew we had a lot of health problems in 2020, with my sister starting off having a stroke," said Pacilieo. "I was totally shocked!"

Augie and Ray's in East Hartford and Piggy's Cafe in Hartford also got selected to be recipients of the fund.

The Barstool Fund has now raised roughly 35 million dollars, and the total continues to grow. 

"I think local businesses is what keeps this country going," said Pacileo. 

For more on the Barstool Sports Fund, click here


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