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Logjam Presents establishes fund for hourly workers; United Way works toward relief

Nick Checota and his wife, Robin, have established a relief fund for the nearly 200 hourly employees with Logjam Presents who are current out of work. (Missoula Current file photo)

Less than five days removed from closing its concert venues and two days after closing its restaurant, Logjam Presents has shifted its focus to its employees to help them through challenging times.

Nick and Robin Checota, owner of the entertainment and production company, have set up an internal fund to continue paying Logjam’s employees who are currently without work.

The couple has donated $100,000 to get the fund established and has created a GoFundMe account asking for help.

“We’re trying to give them supplemental income to get through this period,” Checota said Tuesday. “We’re hoping it will help them, and when this is over, they’ll come back to us quickly. When you take care of people, they’ll take care of you.”

Logjam Presents, which owns the Wilma, Top Hat and KettleHouse Amphitheater in Missoula, postponed all performances for 30 days, calling it the responsible thing to do. It acted before the state and federal government recommended limiting social gatherings to 50 or fewer people.

This week, Logjam also suspended restaurant operations at the Top Hat, less carry out orders. The closures have effectively left the region’s largest entertainment and production company without a revenue stream.

It also has left the bulk of its employees out of work.

“We’ve got 200 employees, of which for a good portion, we’re their main source of income,” Checota said. “In light of the total failures of our governments and their ability to act in any kind of speedy and responsible way, we’re trying to fill the void.”

Logjam’s full-time staff of 17 employees will remain working, though all but six of its nearly 180 hourly employees will not. The company has established an internal website where staff have been asked to answer a series of confidential questions pointed at their individual situation.

Combined with their recent hours worked, the company will work to keep them paid during the shutdown at their current rate.

“It’s our goal to keep them at that level – they’re my business,” Checota said. “We’re just doing what we can. Taking care of your employees and helping them through this tough time we think is the most effective way to get ramped back up when things get back in business.”

Logjam isn’t the only locally owned business facing challenges as the virus places a strain on the economy and threatens to send the nation into a recession. While bars and restaurants are closed, other businesses have seen a loss in revenue, and some are unable to pay employees.

The United Way of Missoula County on Tuesday also established a relief fund to help service employees who are out of work and others who are unable to access healthcare.

The federal government on Tuesday considered a variety of packages aimed at providing relief to workers and businesses, though nothing has been passed. Parts of the economy remain in a free-fall with layoffs rising daily and industries begging for some form of relief.

Checota expressed frustration over the process and the lack of guidance.

“There’s such little guidance coming from any of our leaders, and that’s not a Democrat or Republican statement,” he said. “You have 50 states doing 50 differing things and a thousand counties doing a thousand different things. This has been going on for three months. How come we don’t know how to approach it at this point?”

As part of the supplemental income fund established by Logjam, customers interested in helping could consider donating any outstanding ticket from a canceled or postponed show back to Logjam.

Checota said 100% of the proceeds will go to support the company’s hourly staff.

“I would be floored if the county allowed restaurants to reopen on the 24th,” Checota said. “I’m prepared – and what I’m basing this on I couldn’t quite tell you – but I’m preparing for a 90 to 100 day close.”

Those interested in contributing to the fund for hourly employees can call 406-830-4640. Logjam also has established a GoFundMe campaign at this link.