The groundswell of support to cancel last Thursday’s Post Malone concert at Pepsi Center didn’t deter the army of workers determined to make the event a success.
Anne Marie Tarjan Robbins was one of them, a part-time Legends employee who didn’t let the mounting fear of the coronavirus keep her from working. One of hundreds of Legends employees contracted through Kroenke Sports and Entertainment to work events, Robbins is typically an in-seat server/bartender. She facilitated 221 transactions last Thursday, nearly four times the activity she has at Nuggets games. She and her co-workers tried to temper their fears before the crowd filled the arena.
“We had just worked the Nuggets game three days prior,” Tarjan Robbins said. “We had worked the Miranda Lambert concert a week and a half prior. So at that point, the five of us were talking, we’re like, ‘If anybody has it, we have it by now.’”
As a result of the outbreak, which forced season suspensions in the NBA and NHL, Robbins was dealt even more sobering news ahead of the concert.
“One of my bosses sat us down, the bartender, and he was very realistic,” Tarjan Robbins said. “He said, ‘This is it. We’re not going to have anything else for a while. When you come back, you may not have X,Y and Z at your job.’”
Tarjan Robbins’ husband still has work, which makes her one of the lucky ones. She’s spent the first week of the hiatus with her three kids, one of whom is immunocompromised. Her exposure to the fans at Pepsi Center has raised her concern over transmitting the disease. But her story — a part-time event worker now in search of her next gig — is the same one that’s wreaked havoc on hundreds of workers at venues such as Pepsi Center.
Last Saturday, KSE pledged to pay its part-time and hourly employees for the next 30 days, following the lead of more than a dozen owners and a handful of players who also committed to helping arena staff. The statement added: “We also have asked our vendors and partners to do the same.”
The two largest vendors working out of Pepsi Center are Legends, which handles the venue’s food-and-beverage services, and Argus, which supplies ushers and security for gameday and concert events.
Argus spokesman Andy Boian said in a statement to The Denver Post on Thursday that they were putting together a financial relief package to offset the loss of compensation for their 2020 hourly employees.
The total sum would be several hundred thousand dollars, and Argus CEO and President Dave Brower also planned to take a 25% pay cut. That money would also aid the employees’ relief package.
“We’re going to disperse that money among our 2020 hourly employees and then we’ll reassess in a month where we are,” Boian said.
Legends sent an email to employees assuring them KSE, in conjunction with Legends, “are contributing to help hourly hospitality associates during their time of need.
“KSE is in the process of creating a fund to mitigate their lost wages as a result of canceled events at the Pepsi Center, Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium, and the Paramount Theatre, and Legends will contribute to this fund,” the email read.
Neither Legends nor KSE has specified how those funds will be distributed to Legends employees, or how those funds are related. Multiple messages left with both parties requesting an explanation were not returned.
Amid the upheaval of an industry NBA Commissioner Adam Silver estimated provided 55,000 jobs across the league, Mike McNeill, an Argus employee, saw an opportunity to support his colleagues. Last Friday, McNeill started a Facebook group called the Colorado Event Workers Coalition. It had 645 members as of Thursday morning. It’s become a place to share information on job opportunities, child-care options, where to go for food, or simply a place to vent.
Ellie Presley Burgett, a part-time worker at Argus, as well as an eighth-grade teacher, helped McNeill organize and assemble the digital space. The group has no affiliation with Argus and was conceived solely as a resource for event workers.
“We’re not just working on the physical health of jobs and food, but also the mental health because this has been a giant thing where a lot of our people have just felt like the rug’s been pulled out from under them,” Burgett said. “And while I get it as a second job, a lot of our team members, this is their primary job.”
She said that KSE’s promise for their part-time workers sowed a misunderstanding among her colleagues.
“There’s been a lot of frustration and confusion that that statement from KSE is that people will be getting paid, and that’s what the general understanding has been,” she said. “But then when we look at the full story, it’s unclear whether or not the vendors, both internally and externally, because you’ve got those vendors, outside you’ve got Jay’s Valet that does parking. We really have no idea or clarification whether or not those different entities will be being paid or not.”
In addition to the vendors, a handful of non-profits that work out of local venues could be upended. Organizations like Step Up and Universal Education Supporters, which help families pay tuition and sports expenses, will be interrupted.
“That’s another portion that people don’t understand,” Tarjan Robbins said. “There’s a caveat there that Pepsi has. Pepsi, Red Rocks, First Bank, Fiddlers, Dick’s, Mile High, they all have non-profits working in there.”
The fear from the virus itself and the anxiety over job loss hasn’t suppressed the group’s energy. Daily posts include entertaining memes, workout routines or words of encouragement.
“I love seeing that it’s a community,” Tarjan Robbins said. “We are all in the same position, some have more, some have less. And people are willing to give where they can, and people are actually humbling themselves and asking, and they know that it’s OK to ask.”