Stuff You Should Know About

For King's BierHaus, a Plan to Help Employees Who Lost Everything in Harvey

King's BierHaus will come back soon.
King's BierHaus will come back soon. Photo by Troy Fields
Update, August 28, 5 p.m.: King’s BierHaus and King’s Biergarten will be hosting a fundraiser on Labor Day, September 4, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with 100 percent of proceeds going back to employees and their families. Also, King's BierHaus will open tonight, August 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. offering one free beer per person. There won't be any food for purchase. This is just a way to give back to the community for two hours tonight only.

On Sunday morning Hans Sitter awoke to find his house filling with floodwater in Friendswood. While he was being rescued by boat, across Houston, his son Phillipp Sitter had left his home in Somerset Green and begun navigating the flooded streets of the Heights, a trek that took nearly six and a half hours, to check on their beer garden King's BierHaus, which opened in May on East T.C. Jester, the road that runs along White Oak Bayou.

"We left the house at 7:30 a.m. and got there at 2 p.m.," Sitter tells the Press. "It was like something out of the crazy books I used to read in elementary school." All of I-10 appeared to be underwater. He and his girlfriend got to the Heights and waded through water two to eight feet deep from White Oak to T.C. Jester, hitching rides on the back of two sixteen wheelers along the way, and finally arriving at the parking lot of King's BierHaus, where they made it through a parking lot of chest-deep water.

click to enlarge
The parking lot at King's BierHaus.
Photo courtesy of King's BierHaus
Some of Sitter's employees also came out to help him clean the restaurant, which most of them had worked at the day before, Saturday, when it was all "sunshine and rainbows," as Sitter calls it, with the raucous anticipation of the Mayfield/McGregor fight in the air and hardly a puddle on the ground.  After Sitter closed up early so his workers could get home safely, Hurricane Harvey unloaded its deluge upon Houston, but, astonishingly, given its close proximity to White Oak Bayou, the restaurant took on only about four to six inches of water.

"We can probably be open for business by the end of the week, depending on what happens, but that's not our main concern." What is his main concern right now is his employees' welfare. In the wake of Harvey's devastating flooding, some have lost everything.

"We have over 200 employees," Sitter says (between King's BierHaus and King's Bier Garten in Pearland). "Many are completely flooded. They lost vehicles, got stranded. I have one employee that took four feet of water in his apartment." Sitter notes that many workers in the restaurant industry live paycheck to paycheck and can't afford insurance or setbacks. "They can't buy a new car. If they don't have a car, they're losing their ability to get back to work."

While Sitter was able to hand out some food and cash to his employees on Sunday, there are still some he hasn't even been able to get in contact with. That's his No. 1 priority as of Monday morning. The next priority is drawing attention and helping to lead fundraising efforts for restaurant industry employees affected by Harvey's catastrophic flood.

"This is not a time to take profits," Sitter said. "This is a time for all of us to come together in the restaurant industry. This is going to be a very big time for us to work together. I want to start reaching out to other restaurants, start a conglomerate, rally the Heights community and social media to donate to the Red Cross or raise money for our employees, so some good can come out of this."

When King's BierHaus reopens, it will host a fundraising event to help raise money for restaurant industry workers in need. Until then, he is hoping more Houston restaurants will also reach out and band together. Restaurants and individuals interested in taking part can reach him at [email protected].
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Gwendolyn Knapp is the food editor at the Houston Press. A sixth-generation Floridian, she is still torn as to whether she likes smoked fish dip or queso better.