May 6, 2020 at 3:13 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Amazon enlists Freddie’s restaurant for COVID meal deliveries
Freddie Lutz, gay news, Washington Blade
Freddie Lutz told the Blade he was ‘delighted’ to accept Amazon’s offer to prepare and help deliver the meals to the front line COVID workers. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

As it continues to move into its new second headquarters complex in the Crystal City section of Arlington, Va., the tech giant Amazon has hired Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, which is widely known as an LGBT establishment, to prepare and deliver 10,000 meals in the month of May for front line healthcare workers and first responders in Arlington and nearby Alexandria who are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement released to the Washington Blade, Amazon said it was investing $200,000 to pay for the 10,000 meals. Last week, Freddie’s prepared and delivered over 400 of the meals to the Arlington County Police Department, the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, and the Arlington Emergency Communications Center staff.

This week, according to the statement, meals from Freddie’s and possibly three other small restaurants located near Freddie’s on the 23rd Street ‘restaurant row’ in Crystal City, were being delivered to firefighters in Arlington and Alexandria and emergency medical services staff.

“During this unprecedented time, Amazon is working to not only support our frontline workers and first responders across the Arlington area, but also our most vulnerable neighbors in immediate need,” said Brian Huseman, vice president for Amazon Public Policy in a separate statement.

“We are proud to work alongside Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, a beloved local restaurant in our new neighborhood, to ensure that we’re thanking our neighbors who are keeping us safe, and caring for our neighbors who need extra support right now with hearty meals throughout May,” Huseman said.

The Amazon statement says that in the last two weeks of the month the meals prepared by Freddie’s would be sent to an organization called the Cooperative for a Hunger Free Arlington to support “neighbors in immediate need.”

Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant owner Freddie Lutz told the Blade he was “delighted” to accept Amazon’s offer to prepare and help deliver the meals to the front line and first responder workers that he said he and his staff greatly admire.

Lutz said he was contacted last month by an Amazon official who told him “we love Freddie’s and we’d like to partner with you on delivering 10,000 meals in May.” According to Lutz, that initial contact led to a detailed operation that enabled him to bring back most of his employees who were temporarily laid off when Virginia joined nearby D.C. and Maryland in shutting down restaurants, bars, and nightclubs for in-house operations in the effort to curtail the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Lutz said that at his suggestion, Amazon agreed to invite at least three other smaller restaurants located near Freddie’s to provide some of the meals that Freddie’s may not be able to handle on a given day.

Freddie’s manager Tony Rivenbark said that since the massive meal project began last week Freddie’s kitchen staff with the help of other employees have been preparing more than 400 lunch or dinner meals per day.

“For lunch we’re doing things like turkey sandwiches, ham sandwiches,” Rivenbark told the Blade. “At dinner time we’re doing things like chicken pesto fettuccine, meat lasagna, and meatloaf,” he said. “And we’re doing a percentage of those meals that are vegetarian.” Rivenbark said all of the meals are taken directly from Freddie’s regular menu.

Lutz, who serves on the Executive Committee of the board of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, or BID, said at his suggestion, the BID has agreed to donate environmentally friendly carry out containers for the meals being delivered. He said the BID is also donating “boxed water,” which is individual servings of water in milk type containers rather than plastic or glass bottles, to accompany the meals being delivered to the front line workers and first responders.

In announcing its 2018 decision to pick Arlington County as the site for its second global headquarters, which it refers to as HQ2, Amazon said it would bring in or hire a total of 25,000 employees to staff the headquarters facility. Most of the employees were expected to be located in office buildings in Crystal City and nearby Potomac Yards just across the Alexandria border that Amazon plans to build over the next several years.

Lutz, who describes Freddie’s as a “straight-friendly” gay/LGBTQ bar and restaurant, has said before the coronavirus outbreak surfaced that Amazon employees would always be welcome at Freddie’s. Among some of his regular customers, Lutz said, are both LGBTQ and straight employees at the Pentagon, which is located less than a mile away.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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