Ten local restaurants received a total of $55,000 in grants this week from Grubhub through a program coordinated by the LGBT Chamber of Commerce
10 chamber restaurants received grants from Grubhub; 9 students given scholarships
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
The North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce has had a busy week, handing out scholarships to students and granting funds to restaurants as well as reintroducing a non-discrimination program called Welcome Everyone.
The Welcome Everyone program was first launched in 2015 after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Obergefell decision on marriage equality, said Chamber President and CEO Tony Vedda. “We started this so people would have some confidence that when they were planning their wedding, they’d could identify vendors and businesses that welcomed their patronage,” he explained.
The chamber launched the Welcome Everyone — or WE — program with stickers that merchants could place on their doors. They initially got hundreds of requests for door stickers — and not just locally, but from merchants in 20 states and even from several other countries.
While most couples could feel confident in larger cities where they could easily patronize chamber members, Vedda said the program was particularly important for smaller communities.
Then came SCOTUS’ Masterpiece Cake decision. Although it was a narrow ruling, business owners who opposed same-sex marriage took it as an excuse to discriminate. Then that was followed by this summer’s 303 Creative decision.
So the chamber decided to reinvigorate and reintroduce WE to the community.
In the 303 Creative case, the plaintiff asked the courts if her web design business would be subject to Colorado non-discrimination laws banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The plaintiff claimed she was creating wedding websites, but only for opposite-sex couples because same-sex marriage violated her religious beliefs. She claimed to have received a request from a same-sex couple to design their wedding website.
Even though the plaintiff had not, in fact, created websites for any weddings, nor had she been asked to do so by a same-sex couple, the court found in her favor. The ruling allows a business that produces something creative to refuse services if the business’s religious beliefs prohibit those services.
So if the business opposes same-sex marriage, for example, it wouldn’t have to provide service to a same-sex couple.
Lambda Legal attorney Shelly Skeen said the ruling could extend to other circumstances. If a business opposes interracial marriage, an interracial couple could be turned away. If a business opposes the transgender community, anyone who is trans could be refused service. And if a business simply didn’t like people of one race or another, those people could be turned away as well.
The WE program counters 303 Creative, Vedda said. A WE sticker on a business door says that business welcomes everyone and embraces differences.
“Now, with the recent decisions of the Supreme Court, it feels like it is time to make certain we are supporting businesses that support us,” Vedda wrote in the summer edition of the Chamber publication Inside Out.
In addition to the WE program, the chamber foundation this week awarded its annual scholarships.
Since 2011, the foundation has awarded 73 scholarships totaling almost $150,000. Of that number, nine scholarships totalling $45,000 were awarded this week.
Two of those awards — for $2,500 each — were from a new fund established last year by the United Court of the Lone Star Empire. Winners were Kyle Bendiksen, a psychology student at SMU, and Alexa Frederick, a UNT library sciences student.
Two of the awards — also for $2,500 each — were granted through the Michael Doughman Memorial Scholarship established by the Dallas Tavern Guild. Winners are UNT liberal arts/humanities student Quincy Accius, and Vu Mather, who is studying biological and biomedical studies at Harvard Medical School and MIT.
Five additional scholarships were awarded through the foundation’s general fund.
Three other funds remain active but either didn’t have funding or applicants. Candy Marcum established a scholarship to go to a nursing student in memory of her mother. One fund for a law student was created in memory of Rob Ruhlin. And Outtakes donated its treasury for a film and TV scholarship. That’s been expanded to any student studying the arts.
Donations can be made to any of the funds through the chamber foundation’s website.
During the COVID pandemic, Grubhub teamed up with the National LGBT Chamber and local chambers to help restaurants affected by COVID-19. Restaurants didn’t need to be LGBT-owned, but they had to be LGBT chamber members.
Vedda said this year, grants were given to 10 restaurants. Nine received $5,000 and one, Jonathan’s Diner, received $10,000.
Vedda said the application process is fairly easy and that businesses wouldn’t be required to report how the money was used. Basically all the business had to do was tell its story, he said.
Vedda helped rank applications, but not for Texas. Local applicants were rated by chamber execs from elsewhere.
However, even though he didn’t see local applications, Vedda speculated Jonathan’s Diner, located in an area of Oak Cliff hit by redevelopment and skyrocketing rent, was awarded its grant to offset the costs of its forced relocation.
Another winner, Salum, suffered water damage during storms in early March. While repairs have been made now, and the restaurant is up and running, the grant will certainly help in paying off any debt that might have been incurred fixing the damage or help make up for losses while closed. Vedda noted that during the weeks Salum was closed for repairs, expenses, like rent, continued to mount.
Vedda said the best thing for business owners about the program is, “Unlike other grants, there’s no reporting structure, so it doesn’t put an added burden on the business owners.”