Small Businesses in PA Get a Lifeline from Portnoy and $18 Million Barstool Fund

Written By Katie Kohler on January 5, 2021 - Last Updated on August 5, 2022
Small Businesses in PA Get Big Boost from Portnoy, Barstool Fund

What does a restaurant, dance studio and bowling alley have in common?

They are all small businesses in Pennsylvania that are struggling to survive as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But now, thanks to Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, they are among 74 businesses (and counting) that were given a lifeline in the form of aid from the newly formed Barstool Fund.

On Dec. 17, Portnoy announced that Barstool started a relief fund to help small businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic and are struggling to continue operating. Currently, the Barstool Fund has raised just over $18 million. Portnoy seeded the fund with $500,000 of his own money.

Eight small businesses in Pennsylvania received a call from Portnoy, who told them they will be receiving aid from the Barstool Fund.

Pennsylvania businesses get help from Portnoy

As of Jan. 5, the Barstool Fund is providing support to 74 businesses. They teamed with the PA-based nonprofit 30 Day Fund to dole out the money according to a tweet from Barstool CEO Erika Nardini.

The full list of businesses supported to date is on the Barstool Fund website, and you can also watch Portnoy’s FaceTime calls to the business owners on Portnoy’s Twitter. If you didn’t cry enough in 2020 or need a dose of dopamine, the videos are genuinely uplifting.

Pennsylvania businesses selected for the Barstool Fund:

Portnoy takes action, rips politicians

Portnoy backed up his rants about coronavirus-caused shutdowns with a rave-worthy action. In his video explaining the fund, Portnoy said, “New York City just shut down indoor dining. How do you expect these people to survive?” He continued:

“No one seems to care in the government or at least they are not doing anything acting like they care. No plan, no relief, no bailout. Marcus Lemonis challenged me and said ‘Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is?’ I’ve spent the last couple days doing exactly that. Is it the best plan? No. The best plan is the government getting off their ass and issuing billions of dollars of relief to these small business owners who are losing their livelihoods.”

Lemonis is CEO of Camping World and the star of CNBC’s reality television show, The Profit. Here is Portnoy’s full video which had 2.1 million views in less than 24 hours.

Portnoy pushes for donations

Tired of waiting for the government to step up, Portnoy is on a crusade to save small businesses which have been devastated by coronavirus closures. Not only did he put up $500k, he has been pounding the virtual pavement to raise funds.

Portnoy, a Master Chef-level pot stirrer, has leveraged his take-no-prisoners personality at times when it comes to fundraising. He’s called out various people including the New York Yankees in response to committing “$50,000 in winter spending with local businesses around Yankee Stadium.”

Portnoy also called out to Darren Rovell, Elon Musk, and Roger Goodell.

Some familiar names who have already pledge support include Tom Brady, Jon Taffer and Flyers forward Kevin Hayes.

By the sounds of it, if you’re in Portnoy’s contact list, you’ll be getting a call soon.

How to apply for The Barstool Fund

Companies can apply for assistance with needs such as rent or tax payments by sharing their stories by email ([email protected]). However, they must have continued to pay their employees throughout the pandemic.

“Each month, we will continue to cut you a check for how much you need to stay in business ‘til this thing’s over. I don’t care how I get the money. If I need to raise more money, if I need to pay it myself.”

Barstool Fund is modeled after Frankie Borrelli, the cameraman for Portnoy’s “One Bite” pizza reviews. His father owns Borrelli’s Restaurant Cafe & Pizzeria and it’s the type of business Portnoy hopes the Barstool Fund helps save. Borrelli’s was the first recipient.

Small biz hit hard by COVID

In mid-September, Yelp released its Economic Impact Report. It painted a sad picture of business closures across the United States.

Figures from the report show:

  • As of Aug. 31: 163,735 businesses have indicated on Yelp that they have closed, a 23% increase since mid-July.
  • Permanent closures have reached 97,966, representing 60% of closed businesses that won’t be reopening.

COVID has forced the closure (some temporarily) to 30 percent of small businesses in Pennsylvania according to federal data. It ranks PA second to Michigan in terms of economic lockdown impacts.

In New Jersey, about a third of small businesses have closed.

Portnoy and Barstool’s path and philanthropy in PA

Barstool, a digital media company which expanded to sports betting, was called a “sport/smut” brand by Portnoy in 2011. A lightning rod for the comment section and controversy, Portnoy, aka”El Presidente,” has a sweet side.

Portnoy raised awareness and funds for the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia which lost many of its customers due to the coronavirus pandemic. For every $100 deposited by customers in the Barstool Sportsbook app, Penn National, which acquired a large share of Barstool, donated $100 to the Reading Terminal Market until the market reached its $250K GoFundMe goal.

Portnoy also chipped in $50,000. Entrepreneur Jeff Bartos with nonprofit Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund added to the pot, promising his organization would match Penn National’s donations of up to $100,000.

Some of Portnoy’s other good deeds in Pennsylvania include:

Barstool sportsbook in PA

The much-anticipated Barstool sportsbook app through its partnership with Hollywood Casino arrived in Pennsylvania in mid-September.

In November, its second full month, Barstool took $55.86 million in wagers, a small decrease from about $61 million in October. It was third behind only FanDuel and DraftKings in terms of handle and market share.

Penn National matches donation

Wyomissing-PA based Penn National Gaming acquired a 36% stake in Barstool Sports for $163 million in Feb. 2020.

On Jan. 5, Portnoy announced that that Penn National matched the highest donation made to the Barstool Fund with a seven-figure donation. It puts the fund over $18 million.

Katie Kohler Avatar
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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist and Managing Editor at PlayPennsylvania. Katie especially enjoys creating unique content and on-the-ground reporting in PA. She is focused on creating valuable, timely content about casinos and sports betting for readers. Katie has covered the legal Pennsylvania gambling industry for Catena Media since 2019.

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