Five days before Christmas, a fire took away one of Fresno’s shining jewels.
Okay, that’s suuuper dramatic and way overwritten, but to a lot of people, that’s what it felt like when they woke up on a Tuesday morning to find pictures of Livingstone’s restaurant, the dining room charred and black from smoke damage, plastered all over Facebook and Twitter.
With the closure of Audie’s, the renaming of Starline, and the selling of Landmark to a new owner, Livingstone’s is one of the last of the familiar, old-time bars left in the Tower District. It’s a place that serves different functions for different people. When I was younger, it was where I spent Friday nights in tight clothes. As I got older, it’s where I’d meet friends for drinks and dinner after work. Now that I’m even older (and tired, let’s be real), it’s where I go for a mid-week BLT or a mimosa on the weekends.
To Tower District resident Joey Fernandez, Livingstone’s holds a special place in her heart. She’s celebrated events like birthdays, family reunions, and her graduation from Fresno State at the restaurant, as well as losses. And she knows she’s not the only one. “Livingstone’s has a very solid customer base. It’s Fresno’s answer to Cheers. There is a place for you there.”
When news of the fire hit, Joey was approached by friends who knew she’d be willing to find a way to help. She got permission from Stone’s owners, Linda Nitzel and Cynthia Green, to set up a GoFundMe page to raise money on one condition: that all funds go to the 30 employees who were left without a place to work over the holidays. Although their salaries will eventually be covered by insurance, their daily tips – the lifeblood of those in the restaurant business – would be missed while the restaurant stayed closed.
The initial goal of the fund, $7,000, was achieved quickly and easily. Like, within a day or so. Reading the comments on the GoFundMe page and on social media, it’s clear how devastated a lot of Stone’s customers were by the fire, and how good it made them feel to be able to do something to help.
So a new goal was set: $10,000. That also was reached.
A final goal of $15,000 has been set and will expire Friday, December 30, when the money will be divided equally and distributed among the employees (some of the money has already been distributed, according to Joey, who wanted the employees to receive it before the holidays were over). Right now, the total raised is just above $10,500.
Joey wants it to be made clear that raising money for Livingstone’s employees was an idea brought forth by many, not just her. There have been fundraising efforts made by other restaurants in town, as well as concerts put on by local musicians. She’s not at all surprised at how generous Fresnans have been, or how quickly the fund’s goals have been reached.
“The Tower District is a neighborhood of families and friends who make a conscious choice to live here. The reason that choice is made is because we are a family. We are a group of people who live together, support one another, provide for the community, love through the tough times and carry each other when needed.”
To donate to the “Help our friends at Livingstone’s” fund, click here.