Downtown helps out

Fundraiser dinners draw thousands

san jose floodWhat happens when downtown restaurants pull together? Everything.

Or, in this case, the Sharks, and more than 25 bars and restaurants raised more than $70,000 to help neighbors affected by recent flooding.

How’d they do it? Restaurants organized by Britannia Arms’ Maggie Handyside agreed to donate 25 percent of their proceeds from a single evening – Sunday, March 5 – to flood relief. And the San Jose Sharks agreed to chip in more than $50,000.

For Handyside it all started with a Facebook message from Mayor Sam Liccardo. Money was needed to help recover from February flooding. That’s when Coyote Creek became a river raging through neighborhoods and homes, as well as an elementary school and a community theater. Emergency workers evacuated more than 14,000 people from areas surrounding downtown. Officials estimate at least $73 million in damages

“I just thought if restaurants pulled together we could help things,” Handyside said. “We really appreciate the community for the support that the restaurants get from them throughout the year. It was time to give back.”

What if, she wondered, restaurants and bars joined forces and offered up a portion of their proceeds from a single evening?

“All people would have to do is what they would normally do. Eat and drink,” she said. “Simple.”

Handyside reached out the mayor’s office, who signed off on the plan. Then she emailed Tom McEnery, former mayor and part owner of many San Pedro Square restaurants – and then the WMS, a video marketing firm, and then the San Jose Downtown Association.

Within days of hatching the plan more than 25 restaurants signed on, a video featuring McEnery was produced and a Facebook event that reached nearly 100,000 people went live.

Officials are still tallying up the final numbers raised, but Handyside believes the evening was a success.

“It was really busy for us and around the (San Pedro) Square,” she said.

Have an idea for an event? Let us know. And, don’t forget, donations for flood relief are still very much welcome.