It’s been a tradition at the Siesta Key Oyster Bar for years: Customers staple a dollar bill or two onto the wall for a laugh, and to help decorate the neighborhood bar in Sarasota, Fla.

But for the past month, dozens of employees have been gingerly peeling the money from the walls and ceiling for a purpose — to donate to Hurricane Dorian relief in the Bahamas.

General manager Kristin Hale brought the wads of cash to a bank Tuesday, and it totaled $13,961. She said restaurant employees have worked diligently for the past month to dislodge the bills without tearing them in an effort to help the Bahamas, which was devastated by the Category 5 hurricane last month, leaving more than 50 people dead.

“The videos came out and we all saw how horrific things are there,” Hale said. “What happened to those people is unbelievable. It gives you the chills.”

She said it’s taken a month of lovingly easing the bills off the wall because they are affixed with staples from an industrial-strength staple gun. Customers borrow the gun from the host stand and attach the bills themselves, often after writing a quick note on them.

We work hard for the money! #SKOBlove #ItTakesaVillage #BahamianRelief

Posted by Siesta Key Oyster Bar on Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Customers have been stapling bills to the walls of the bar since it opened 16 years ago, Hale said. Employees tell customers it’s part of an old fisherman’s tradition in which the seamen would visit a bar on their way out to the sea in the morning, and staple a dollar to the wall to be sure they had money for a drink in the afternoon.

Is it true? “It’s a fun story,” Hale said.

Every two or three years, the owners peel the bills off the walls and donate a few thousand dollars to local charities, often ones that benefit causes for children and women, Hale said.

It was the bar’s owners — sisters Jill Pedigo and Beth Owen-Cipielewski and their husbands — who decided that this time, the money would go to the Red Cross for Hurricane Dorian relief.

“The owners are huge into giving back,” Hale said. “They donate to charities every couple years. This year there was this buzz like we should donate to the Bahamas. We were all on the same page.”

When customers saw what employees were doing in the past few weeks, they started donating extra money to the cause, Hale said. And sometimes, employees found $20 bills on the walls. In recent years, the bar has donated $7,000 or $8,000 to different causes. But still, Hale said she and the other employees were blown away when they peeled almost $14,000 off the walls.

“We never thought it would be that much,” Hale said. “We were shocked.”

Correction: The photo credit for the top image of the Siesta Key Oyster Bar has been updated. The photographer is Dylan Jon Wade Cox.

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