Bottoms up! Couple starts nonprofit cocktail delivery business to aid frontline workers

When a Chagrin Falls couple in the restaurant and bar industries found themselves in March without jobs after the coronavirus shutdown, they did the thing that they know best. They turned their lemons into lemonade—or martinis in their case.

 

Dave Ocker was laid off as a bartender in Mentor, and his fiancé, Kyah Fernandez was furloughed as a general manager at an upscale restaurant. With new-found free time on their hands, Dave started making cocktails for the couple’s neighbors—while practicing social distancing, of course.

 

“When COVID started everyone was stressed out,” recalls Fernandez. “It was just something for us to do, [all of us] standing six feet to 20 feet apart around a fire with our kids.”

 

Dave’s Quarantinis partners with Face Mask Workers Ohio, who made special masks for the Woodmere Police Department. Ocker’s cocktails were a hit in the neighborhood, and a neighbor suggested they turn their mixology talents into a business.

 

Ocker and Fernandez did, in fact, decide to launch a business. Nonprofit Dave’s Quarantinis makes and delivers martinis all over eastern Cuyahoga County, including Cleveland Heights, University Heights, and Beachwood, as well Cleveland’s near west side and Lakewood.

 

They officially launched the company on March 30, and it was designated a nonprofit on April 11. In just one month, Dave’s Quarantinis raised more than $6,000 to buy and donate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and meals for frontline workers in area hospitals and police departments in Northeast Ohio.

 

“We’re very busy, but it feels really good,” says Fernandez. “We’re restaurant workers, we’re used to working 60, 70 hours a week, so three weeks of sitting at home was not the answer.”

 

Ocker and Fernandez now have 12 cocktail flavors­­—ranging from the dirty martini to the CLE-tini (Long Island iced tea with a Cleveland twist). Fernandez says their most popular varieties have been the Lemon Drop, Mama’Rita, and Peach-tini.

 

The couple raise the money for the meals and equipment by selling their selection of cocktails—suggesting a $10 donation per 10-ounce bottle—and pay for any overhead out of their own pockets. Fernandez and Ocker do not make a penny for the work they are doing.

 

“We’re trying to do something good,” says Ocker. “We just want to do something to put a smile on your face.”

 

Dave’s Quarantinis works with a local group of women, Face Mask Workers Ohio, who make and donate facemasks to anyone who needs them, as well as the owners of Moe’s Southwest Grill in South Euclid and Mentor and other area restaurants, to secure masks and meals for their donations to the frontline organizations.

 

Lima-based United States Plastics Corp. makes tamper-resistant plastic 10-ounce juice bottles for the beverages.

 

The two, with the help of a few friends, deliver lunches and dinners to different departments at nearly all the local hospitals and several police and fire departments from downtown Cleveland to Lake and Geauga Counties. Of course, they’re also busy delivering cocktails to Northeast Ohio residents.

 

Face Mask Workers Ohio recently made washable masks, line with filters, for the Woodmere Police Department. “They have extra protection for our law enforcement as they come into close contact the community,” explains Fernandez.

 

Once Covid-19 passes and people start going out, Fernandez says they have every intention of continuing Dave’s Quarantinis. “It’s been a great experience to give back during this time,” she says. “There’s no reason to stop now.”

 

She says they are currently looking for a small production facility in downtown Chagrin Falls.

 

Today, Ocker and Fernandez are offering special margarita flavors in honor of Cinco de Mayo and plan to thank the third shift employees at Geauga Hospital with a catered dinner from Moe’s.

 

All drinks are handmade with premium liquors and mixers. The drinks are then packaged, sealed, and sanitized before deliver. Email cocktail orders here.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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