When videos showing the wrath of Hurricane Dorian on the Bahamas started coming in, the owners of a popular Florida bar knew they had to act.
For years, customers at Siesta Key Oyster Bar in Sarasota have been writing messages on dollar bills and stapling them to the walls and ceiling. Every few years, staff members remove the bills, and the owners pick a local charity to donate the money to.
But this year, they decided to send it out of town — to the people of the Bahamas.
"All the videos had started coming out of [the Bahamas] and what was left ... It was just horrifying," said Kristin Hale, the bar’s general manager. "We were like, 'Oh my [gosh] we can actually do something to help these people'. So that's kind of where we fueled the fire."
Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas in late August, destroying entire towns and killing at least 50 people.
Hale said about 40 members of the bar’s staff spent the month of September carefully removing the bills from the walls whenever they had down time. Some bills had been up for years. They used pliers and screwdrivers to remove each bill, and by Sept. 30, they had taken down 13,961.
"We were all super surprised," she said. "We did not expect to get that much down."
It's the most money the bar has ever donated to a charitable cause, Hale said, adding that it will go to the Bahamas Red Cross.
Once word got around that the bar would be donating to Dorian relief efforts, many community members came in and put up $5 and $20 bills, rather than the usual $1.
"I don't think we expected the response we got from the community," Hale said. "[It] makes you feel like you're doing the right thing and the good thing.”
Hale said Siesta Key Oyster Bar, owned by sisters Beth Owen-Cipielewski and Jill Pedigo and their husbands, is about to celebrate its 16th year in business.
"The owners are very, very big on giving back," Hale said. "They genuinely care about our community and those in need."
Hale said the bar's long-standing tradition of writing notes on dollar bills before stapling them to the bar’s interior originates from an old tale about fishermen.
At the beginning of the workday, Hale said, fishermen would staple a dollar bill to the wall of a local bar before going out to fish for the day. If they didn’t catch anything, they would come back, remove the dollar bill and use it to pay for a drink.
While Hale said she doesn’t know how much truth there is to the story, it’s an amusing tale they tell their customers when they put up their dollar bills.