Bar and Restaurant Owners Group Helps School District Solve Lunch Debt

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Jim Pivarnik for ELi

Making sure East Lansing schoolchildren receive the food they need has remained one of the top priorities for administration officials across the ELPS district. It continues to be a key responsibility in response to the emergency order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to close schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

Now, the leftover school lunch debt incurred by district families has been paid by a group of local businesses known as the Responsible Hospitality Council.

Mike Krueger, owner and manager of Crunchy’s, is a member of the RHC executive committee along with RHC Chair Pat Riley (Harper’s), Scott Rolen (Lou and Harry’s) and Steve Hermenson (Rick’s).

RHC members began discussing the possibility of taking care of the school lunch debt a couple of months ago as a way to contribute to a community need.

“We have a certain amount of money that we can donate every year, mostly from dues we collect, and we thought this would be a good thing to do,” Krueger said Thursday.

Dewey Bramson, an owner of Beggar’s Banquet and a number of other restaurants and bars in East Lansing, first learned of the situation during a conversation with East Lansing High School Principal Andy Wells in mid-March, shortly after the governor’s initial emergency order.

“Even during the toughest of times and with the uncertainty of everything going on, the bars and restaurants in East Lansing continue to be good community partners, looking out for our neighbors,” Bramson said Wednesday.

Bramson, who chairs the RHC’s community relations committee, said the RHC as a whole was inspired by Meridian Township Manager Frank Walsh and his wife, Shar, who paid off a similar lunch school debt for both the Haslett and Okemos school district.

“Mike Krueger is on our executive committee, and he helped make it happen quickly,” Bramson said. “He’s very active within the city and contributes in a lot of different ways. We’re happy to do it.”

RHC contributed $3,119.87 to pay off negative student lunch account balances.

“The district is very appreciative of this generous donation by RHC as well as other donations and interest for this cause throughout this school year,” ELPS Director of Finance Rich Pugh wrote in an email to ELi on Thursday.

The RHC started in 1998 and works specifically to promote “responsible advertising, safe on-site management, community stewardship, compliance with state and local liquor laws, and responsible alcohol consumption by patrons throughout all of our member establishments.”

RHC provides best practice guidelines for events like 21st birthday parties and other celebratory events, and runs workshops to train servers in practices that help keep patrons safe. The RHC has also been a generous sponsor of ELi’s Arts & Entertainment reporting.

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