"We always had an inside joke: 'If anything goes bad, at least we have the money on the wall,'" Juliana Sodre tells Business Insider. Sodre, the co-owner of the Hott Leggz bar in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., adds that her establishment is now indeed facing such a "worst-case scenario" due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was forced to temporarily shutter last month (except for takeout) and lay off 22 staffers. Then Sodre realized she had an emergency cash reserve: the thousands of dollar bills stapled to the ceiling and walls over the past nine years, with messages written by patrons. "We were like, there's literally money on the walls, so let's donate it all to the employees," she tells the Sun Sentinel. Sodre and a crew of volunteers started carefully removing the dust-caked currency at the end of March; a Facebook video shows some of their efforts.
By the time they finished, they'd pulled down just over $10,000, though about $100 of the cash couldn't be accepted by the bank due to damage. The Miami Herald reports that other watering holes and eateries around the country are doing the same thing, including Hamburger Joe's in Myrtle Beach, SC, and the Sand Bar in Tybee Island, Ga. CNN reports that at the end of last month, volunteers pried dollar bills off the walls at the Sand Bar after owner Jennifer Knox realized she could pay her own now-unemployed staff with them. Her haul came to more than $3,700, along with another $400 or so donated from customers, which she split between four bartenders and two musicians. "I [couldn't] just sit here and do nothing," Knox says. "I'll do what I can for my people." (Read more uplifting news stories.)