Veteran buys $20K bottle of bourbon for $40K to help restaurant stay open during COVID-19 crisis

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – There’s no question the coronavirus pandemic is hitting many businesses hard, but an act of kindness is helping one continue to serve and give back to the community.

Suzanne and Roger Perry, owners of the Tampa-area Datz restaurant group, say they went from having nearly 400 employees to just 27 overnight. They had to decide between completely closing their restaurants or only doing takeout and delivery at a fraction of normal sales.

“We decided to limp along and stay open as long as possible,” Suzanne Perry said in an email. “But making even our new lower payroll numbers is difficult with the drastic reduction in revenue that we are now facing.”

She said they decided to sell their prized bourbon and liquor collection in order to keep the remaining staff members employed and to even bring some back.

The most valuable bottle in the collection was a Pappy Van Winkle Kentucky bourbon, aged 25 years.

“I put it online for sale for $20,000 with the promo code #Here4U for an additional 15 percent off,” Suzanne Perry explained. “I was selling it, in reality, for $17,000 after I Googled it and saw similar bottles online for $17K to $26K.”

She said they received several low-ball offers but didn’t entertain them. “The stakes are too high right now,” she said.

Then they received a call from a couple who started asking questions about the restaurant’s situation. That couple eventually decided they wanted to buy the bottle.

When they showed up to pay for and pick up the bottle, Suzanne Perry said, they handed her husband, Roger, a check for $40,000.

She said her husband opened the check and tried to give it back because he thought it was written in error. But the man who wrote it refused to take it back and said, “We want you to have it.”

“Roger and I were both speechless and astounded by this generosity,” Suzanne Perry said.

She said the man who bought the bottle is a local veteran and philanthropist who has visited restaurants in the Datz group several times with his family. He and his family wanted to stay anonymous.

Because of the act of generosity, Suzanne Perry said, they’ve been able to stay open, keep their remaining staff members and bring a few more back. They’ve also made hundreds of meals for workers who are on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.

“When we get through this, we plan on doing something to pay it forward for one of the several local causes this family already supports,” she added.

Datz is currently open with a limited menu for takeout and delivery in both Tampa and St. Petersburg. A spokesperson for the restaurants says the best way to order is online or by calling either location to place an order for pickup.

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