Jerry Dicecco, chef/owner at Jerry & the Mermaid distributing discount boxes of food to customers in May 2020. Video sceenshot: RiverheadLOCAL video by Peter Blasl

(Updated: Jan. 21) Downtown Riverhead restaurateur Jerry Dicecco wants to make sure unemployed hospitality industry employees on the East End can feed their families this winter.

The hospitality industry has been hit especially hard by the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, said Dicecco, owner-chef at Jerry & the Mermaid on East Main Street.

“So many people are still without work,” he said.

According to the State Department of Labor, year-over-year job losses in November were greatest in leisure and hospitality — which saw a decline of nearly 36,000 jobs across the state.

Dicecco decided to do something to help unemployed hospitality workers. “I wanted to give back,” he said.

And so Dicecco’s “Mermaid Project” was born. It’s an effort to raise $100,000 to feed 500 out-of-work hospitality staff and their families this winter.

“I’m trying to raise the funds by the end of January and start food distribution the first week of February,” Dicecco said today.

“We’ll be providing people with raw, fresh ingredients as well as prepared meals ready to heat and eat,” he said.

Jerry & the Mermaid’s business partners have been eager to help, he said.

Montauk Distillery is donating their spirits to the restaurant so Dicecco can donate 20% of the revenue from every drink made with Montauk Distillery’s products to the Mermaid Project.

Long Ireland Beer Co. is donating $1 for every pint sold.

Clare Rose, Heineken USA, Coney Island Brewery and Montauk Brewery are among the local businesses supporting the effort, along with local organizations such as the L.I. Cauliflower Association, Rotary, the Riverhead BID and the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, Dicecco said.

Donations to the Mermaid Project can be made via the Mermaid Project website.

A local marketing agency is donating a website for the Mermaid Project where online donations will be accepted. Dicecco said he expects the site to launch within a few days.

A donation of any amount will help feed a family in need, Dicecco said.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect new information provided after publication, including the address of a new website launched for donations to the Mermaid Project.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.