Like many in the restaurant industry, Suzanne and Roger Perry saw their business take a huge hit because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Across the US, states have ordered the closure of bars and restaurants to help curb the spread of the virus.
Some restaurants have completely shut down, others have transitioned to pick-up or delivery only, and a handful have resorted to creative options, including selling groceries or including toilet paper in their food orders, to keep their businesses afloat.
As a result of such restrictions on the restaurant industry, Datz Restaurant Group went from close to 400 employees to just 27, and the Perrys said they were running out of money to keep even their skeleton staff paid.
“(Our employees are) family now,” Suzanne Perry told CNN.
“We’ve watched their children grow up and they’ve done absolutely nothing wrong, but we can’t protect them. There’s absolutely nothing we can do. We can’t pay people when we have no revenue.”
So as a last resort, the couple decided to sell the most valuable item in the restaurant’s inventory: A 25-year-old bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon.
“I Googled it to see what the prices were online and I saw anywhere from $17,000 to $26,000 online,” Suzanne Perry said.
“So I listed it for $20,000, and offered a 15% discount online.”
Offers for the rare spirit started rolling in, but most were much less than the $20,000 they were asking for.
“I was selling it in order to maintain my staff for a few more weeks until we can get through this and figure it out so I didn’t entertain any of those low-ball offers,” Suzanne Perry said.
But then, the Perrys received a call from a local couple who frequented their restaurants.
“A woman called and I spoke to her husband,” Suzanne added.
“He’s a veteran. He appreciates bourbon and he wanted to add it in his collection and they decided that they would purchase it. We were very happy about that.”
Not a mistake
Instead of buying it online, however, the man insisted that he would buy it in person with a cashier’s cheque.
“He drove it in the next morning and handed Roger the cheque,” Suzanne explained.
“Roger looked at it and saw that rather than what would have been $17,000 with the discount that we had offered, the cheque was written for $40,000.”
That’s more than $62,000 AUD.
The couple thought it was a mistake, so they tried to give the cheque back — but the man said he wanted them to keep it, according to Suzanne Perry.
“I was so moved by that,” Suzanne Perry recalled. “It was really touching that someone would reach so far into their own pocket to help us survive this.”
Suzanne said the man wanted to remain anonymous, but described him as a local veteran and philanthropist who is “very low key and humble.”
Now, because of the veteran’s act of extreme generosity, the Perrys will be able to keep their restaurants running for takeout and delivery, keep their remaining employees paid for another four weeks and even bring a few employees back to work.
The extra $20,000 has also allowed the Datz Restaurant Group to provide hundreds of meals for the health care workers and first responders who are tirelessly battling the coronavirus.
Once the crisis ends and the Datz Restaurant Group comes out on the other side, Suzanne Perry said she will make sure she repays the bourbon buyer for his kindness.
“There are causes that he cares about deeply, causes that are really near and dear to his heart and I will support him in the form of catering events. I will promote them, I’ll do whatever I can,” Suzanne Perry said. “What he has done for me is going to come back to him a hundred times.”