A fundraising page has been launched to help employees of The Island Cow restaurant, which is closed following an after-hours kitchen fire on Aug. 6. The goal for the page is to raise up to $250,000, enough to cover two months of wages for the restaurant’s 50 employees. The Island Cow owners Brian and Elke Podlasek plan to match funds raised up to $10,000.

The fundraising page is being hosted by the nonprofit Put It On Pete’s Tab, which was established to help hospitality workers, with 100% of donations to be contributed to staff.

“We are so grateful to everyone who has reached out to share concerns and offer support. Many have asked what they can do,” said Elke Podlasek. “Over 50 staff, servers, hosts, managers, cooks and bartenders who are part of our Island Cow family are now facing unemployment until we rebuild. Some have worked for us since we first opened our doors and have known no other job since they were teenagers. They’re the ones we need to support during this time of uncertainty.”

Because rebuilding the restaurant could take a year or more, the Podlaseks, with help from Put It On Pete’s Tab, launched the campaign #HelptheHerd through Put It On Pete’s Tab’s donorbox account. Donations to donorbox.org/helptheherd are fully tax-deductible and will go directly to the employees, not to the owners or to efforts to rebuild. Donors can also send checks to the fund at Put It On Pete’s Tab, Inc., P.O. Box 150911, Cape Coral, FL 33915, Venmo donations to @PutItOnPetesTab, or Zelle to PutItOnPetesTab@gmail.com.

Put It On Pete’s Tab was formed to honor generous Michigan and Florida hospitality worker Peter O’Brien, who passed away unexpectedly in March 2020. O’Brien was part of the Sanibel community and worked at Blue Giraffe, CinCin, Bubble Room, Doc Ford’s and George and Wendy’s restaurants. His friends and family decided to gift money he had after his death to hospitality workers who lost income due to COVID-19 closures.

“Sanibel was Pete’s island — if he were alive, he’d be the first one standing outside The Island Cow raising money,” said his sister, Emily Iafrate, a co-founder of Put It On Pete’s Tab. “He’d be offering his shifts up to the employees knowing they needed it more than he did. We are honored to be a part of the effort to support The Island Cow employees.”

About The Island Cow

The Island Cow on Sanibel Island is known for its udderly great American-style food and fun, offering over 300 menu items, specialty coffees, desserts and tropical cocktails. The restaurant located at 2163 Periwinkle Way on Sanibel Island is currently closed following an after-hours fire on Aug. 6. For more information, visit SanibelIslandCow.com, call 239-472-0606 or follow The Island Cow on Facebook or Instagram.