More Than Coffee and Cookies –

May 11, 2018 – Thirty-five years ago, when Mickey Bakst walked into his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, he realized he was the only hospitality worker in the group. “It was all doctors, lawyers and housewives,” he said.

The general manager of the famed Charleston Grill credits AA for keeping him alive over four decades. But to survive in an industry where illicit drug use is rampant, he and fellow recovering addict and Charleston, S.C., restaurateur Steve Palmer had always talked about creating their own restaurant support group … Palmer, sober for 16 years, said he was especially heartened to see the importance of Ben’s Friends during the annual Charleston Wine and Food festival this year. Many out-of-town hospitality workers came to a meeting looking to escape temptation, he said. Attendance has grown to represent a wide swath of foodservice workers: caterers, alcohol distributors, fast-food owners, managers and even a celebrity chef or two.

As word spreads about the group, unsolicited donations have poured in. The non-profit uses the funds to place restaurant workers in sober living homes. Palmer considers this goal vital for recovery because workers tend to room with other foodservice workers — many of whom are not the best role models. “I hate to be villainous of the industry, but there’s unique social circumstances that exist in our world,” Palmer said.

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