Employees Only, NYC Bar, Looks To Crowdfund Barback's Health Care

The New York City bar Employees Only is crowdfunding on GoFundMe to help pay for facial reconstructive surgeries for one of its employees, Uros Miljkovic, who works as a barback at the West Village lounge and as as a bartender at sister bar Macao.

The fundraiser, titled "Save Uros' Face," is an effort by Miljkovic's coworkers to help him recover from an accident that occurred in Miami in August.

According to the bar's office manager and the fundraiser's leader, Rebecca Kahikina, Miljkovic was walking down the sidewalk when he was struck by some cargo that was sticking out of a passing truck. Although the exterior of Miljkovic's face appeared fine, he suffered major fractures to his nose and left cheek and underwent surgery on Aug. 30.

Employees Only is part of a Restaurant Worker Health Care Cooperative, but employee health coverage extends only to general check-ups and common illnesses, not to surgeries or hospital stays. Kahikina said that though it's customary for staff to pool tip money for employees kept out of work for health or personal reasons, Miljkovic's surgeries required a bit more cash. That's when the group turned to crowdfunding.

Using a crowdfunding platform to save an employee's face is perhaps novel, but turning to the web to attract small investors is an increasingly common move for small businesses. Strictly small business crowdfunding sites like Smallknot and Lucky Ant have helped users refurbish their favorite places or keep them afloat.

"I got the idea from one of our former servers, who raised $20,000 to buy a van to tour with her band," said Kahikina. The owners asked the former employee to create a GoFundMe page and from there, the team came up with rewards and perks for donors.

Normal rewards range from t-shirts to free food and drinks at the bar. Higher rollers can receive a "birthday dance" from a burlesque performer or a one-hour class with Employees Only owner, "master mixologist" and award-winning cocktail creator Dushan Zaric.

For some customers, preserving Miljkovic's good looks may be reason enough to donate. Yelp reviewer Janice C. describes a particular affinity for Miljkovic, along with Employees Only's other "SIZZLING. HOT. BARTENDERS." in her impassioned review of the bar.