ORLANDO, Fla. – When the coronavirus pandemic hit Orlando and restaurants and bars were ordered to close, it was an unprecedented situation for many local small business owners.
Several entrepreneurs stepped up to help others in their respective industries, including Jason Lambert of the Hammered Lamb.
Though he doesn’t consider himself one of Orlando’s everyday heroes, saying “everyone was kind of doing their best,” it turns out he’s been all over News 6 coverage from the very beginning which shows the impact he’s had on other small business owners.
That’s why the City of Orlando nominated him for being a leader.
“Not everybody knows that, that majority of the bartenders downtown all know each other, we all grew up together and a lot of us had been bartending together, you know, on Wall Street in different places downtown,” Lambert said. “We were constantly texting and calling and emailing and, ‘How are you handling this situation, what they do about this?’”
Lambert is known for being pretty vocal with the city during the pandemic.
“We’re going to do this, we’re going to open up and we’re going, ‘This is how we’re going to do it.’”
But also for following the rules put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep his employees and patrons safe.
“We followed those guidelines from the very beginning,” Lambert said. “Immediately, when we were allowed to reopen, we had hand wash stations, when you walked in the door and you had to wash your hands, we required everyone, employees and guests, to have masks on at all times. We followed all the guidelines, and if people didn’t want to listen to those, we asked them to leave.”
They made sure people knew they were following the rules and expected everyone to take part. They were constantly posting on social media about their policies, the safety measures they put in place, all of it, so that any potential customer knew they’d be safe in their establishment. Turns out for them — it worked.
“When we were doing all of the social media posts about everything, there were a lot of people that were commenting, coming in and they said, ‘I feel safe going to your establishment because I know you guys are really enforcing all the guidelines and really sticking to all the standards,’” Lambert said. “And I think we came out of it, I think faster than a lot of other places did because people did feel safe here. And as things slowly started to open, we were one of the first places that people really started to go to. The last three or four months of 2021, a lot of places were still struggling, we were kind of already like making our way up out of it because people were feeling, feeling safe coming, coming to us.”
But Lambert is also known for his support of other restaurant workers.
“Pretty much everybody was out of work in this industry,” Lambert said. “Most people in this industry, it’s a cash business and they make their tips and they go home and they pay their bills and they provide for their family. Then when all of a sudden that cash stops flowing, people in this industry don’t really have a whole lot of backup plans or, you know, big savings accounts or 401ks or that kind of stuff.”
Lambert said several organizations stepped up to pay for lunch, including Tito’s, on a specific day to offer meals to those who were out of work.
“There were some places that came in, and they’d buy $1,000 worth of gift cards. And they’d pass the gift cards off to people. So there were great, great organizations in the community that saw the need for helping people out,” he said. ”And we were able to be a venue where we could cook food and serve food and drinks. So that was, that was a feel-good moment, I guess, for sure, to be able to help out where we could.”
As far as challenges, Lambert said he did learn some about business strategy.
“I should have a bigger savings account,” Lambert laughed. “I think that, you know, as small business owners, at least, most small business owners, I know we don’t really think that far out into the future. Like, a freezer breaks down, I’ve got to spend a couple thousand for a new freezer and we kind of think of those like, more short term things. What does the future look like for the next three to six months? And we’re not thinking, ‘Oh, what’s it like going to be like if we don’t have any income for a year and a half?’ And I definitely feel like that kind of changed my views on maybe being a little more thrifty.”
Looking back, Lambert said there’s one thing he’s most proud of because it’s indicative of the job he did keeping people safe.
“I’d say the highlight for me was the fact that none of our employees got COVID. And we were really adamant about face masks and masks and social distancing and washing our hands,” Lambert said. “I think Orlando is really well-known for, in that times of hardship and tragedy, Orlando always pulls together when we’re at our lowest. I think that’s something that makes me feel good about about being here.”