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Veteran buys $20K bottle of bourbon for $40K to help restaurant stay open

A bottle of Pappy Van Winkle Kentucky Bourbon was sold by a Florida restaurant group.
(Photo: Datz Group/WFLA)

TAMPA, Fla. (WTHR) — It's no surprise that many people are going out of their way to do what they can to support small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The extent that some went to be supportive recently was surprising.

Suzanne and Roger Perry own Datz Restaurant Group in the Tampa area. Their workforce has shrunk from 400 to 27 in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions, according to WFLA.

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

The Perrys have a prized liquor collection that they opted to put up for sale, an effort to keep current staff employed and perhaps bring back some furloughed staff.

A bottle of Pappy Van Winkle Kentucky Bourbon is the gem of the collection, aged 25 years. A post on an online site included a sizeable price tag.

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

They didn't accept initial offers for less than the asking price.

“The stakes are too high right now,” she said.

Then came a phone call inquiring not only about the bourbon, but also about the current plight of their restaurants.

The caller agreed to visit to buy the bottle. They arrived with a check for $40,000. The couple tried to give it back, believing the check was written in error. The buyers said they wanted them to have it.

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

The purchaser was a veteran and philanthropist from the area, a regular customer of Datz properties. They didn't want their identity to be publicly revealed.

The result was, indeed, keeping existing staff on duty and bringing back a few.

“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,” Suzanne said.