Steamboat Local Love supports restaurant owners, families in need |

Steamboat Local Love supports restaurant owners, families in need

Local restaurants are back to pickup and delivery as COVID-19 restrictions have forced them to close for dine-in service. A new grassroots effort, Steamboat Local Love, is hoping to offer restaurants some support in this difficult time and also help local families in need. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After reading about the plight of restaurant owners in the Steamboat Pilot & Today following the announcement that Routt County had moved into stricter public health restrictions that shut down restaurants for inside dining, Jon Schafer went home that night and ordered take out.

But even as he ate the food from Back Door Grill, he could not shake a feeling that he needed to do more.

“The article in the paper that quoted a few local restaurant owners, specifically the owner of Back Door Grill, who was saying that he did not know if he was going to make it through the winter,” Schafer said. “I’ve been around town a pretty long time, and I’ve got a couple of good friends who own restaurants. I called a few people and said, ’This is no good, and we need to do something about this.’”

Schafer recruited his friend Bart Kounovsky to help, and the pair came up with the idea for a Steamboat Local Love challenge, which has been designed to not only help local restaurants but also families that have been challenged by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

“Our restaurants are struggling and so are many families. We wanted to develop a program that helped out both groups at the same time, and we believe this initiative will do that,” Schafer said. “We have partnered with LiftUp of Routt County in a way that will both support our local restaurants and provide meals to numerous deserving families throughout our town in one of the most difficult times that we have ever faced as a community.

“In order for this to work, though, we need everyone’s help,” he added.

Schafer said Steamboat Local Love challenges the community by asking people to pledge to order restaurant takeout more often than they normally would. The initiative also asks businesses and individuals to donate to the program. The money raised will be used to purchase gift cards from area restaurants, and in turn, those gift cards will be given to those facing food insecurity.

If people ordered an additional 1,000 takeout meals in December, Schafer said it will result in more than $50,000 in additional revenue for local restaurants.

Participants are asked to send an email to with their pledges for how many extra times they will order takeout in the month of December. Those pledges will be posted on the group’s website, and anyone who makes a pledge will get a Steamboat Local Love sticker designed by Kaitlin Hollister, founder and creative director of Stand Creative Studio in Steamboat Springs. Hollister also volunteered her time to design the Steamboat Local Love website.

Schafer and Kounovsky hope the stickers will become a “badge of honor” in the community indicating those who supported local restaurants in their time of need.

Schafer said the corporate challenge has already raised $20,000 in donations thanks in part to a $15,000 donation from Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty. That money, along with money raised from private citizens, will be used to purchase gift cards from restaurants that sign up for the program by sending an email to by Dec. 10.

The gift cards will be distributed by Dec. 20 to local residents through LiftUp of Routt County, which has a list of roughly 300 Routt County residents who have been identified as needing food assistance. Any food-insecure individuals in Routt County who believe they may be eligible for a restaurant gift card should apply directly to LiftUp via their website at

“We realize the needs right now in our community are great,” Kounovsky said. “This is a tangible way in which we can all come together and help deal with some of these significant challenges. We hope that the Steamboat Local Love challenge will encourage other members of our community to step up and fill additional needs that are present in Steamboat Springs.”

Steamboat Local Love is an all-volunteer effort with 100% of all donations going to local restaurants and families in need. No expenses, fees or overhead of any sort will be billed to the challenge.

Donations will be accepted through Dec. 20.

All financial transactions are being administered and audited by the law firm of Paul Sachs, PC, which has generously donated its services This firm will also oversee the purchase and distribution of all restaurant gift cards to LiftUp to provide 100% transparency and accountability, Schafer said.

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