Georgia bar takes $5K in cash off its walls to pay staff during shutdown
Bills put there by customers over the years to celebrate birthdays, marriages, anniversaries
For over a decade, it has been tradition for customers at Jennifer Knox's Georgia bar to put money on the walls and ceiling. But now, those bills have been taken down.
Knox has given the money to staff who are out of work after the coronavirus pandemic forced her to shut down The Sand Bar on March 23. The bar is on Tybee Island, not far from Savannah, Ga.
"We were just sitting there sad, kind of lost and confused, and said, 'Oh my goodness. We've got money on the walls and time on our hands,'" Knox told As It Happens host Carol Off. "It just made sense."
It took nearly four days for five volunteers to collect the money, she said.
"It was very difficult," Knox said. "Every dollar had so many staples in it. It was very hard to get the dollars off intact. It was a labour of love for sure."
Not only did they have to get the staples out, but some of the bills needed a good clean.
In the end, the money totalled $3,714 US ($5,192 Cdn). On top of that, the bar has received $390 US ($545 Cdn) in donations.
Knox says four of her bartenders and two musicians have been given $600 US ($838 Cdn) each.
"It just blew their mind. A lot of tears were involved," Knox said.
Knox says the tradition of putting bills on the walls goes back at least 14 years when she started working as a bartender at The Sand Bar.
She has since bought the bar and runs it with her mom, Pam Hessler.
It's common for patrons to write messages on the bills before putting them up, she said.
"Mostly good things," Knox said. "You know, happy birthday, anniversary, marriage, soldier off to war."
But, she added, " you get the drunk people that like to do some, you know, inappropriate things that we probably don't want to say on the air."
"It was a memory to everyone, whether they remember it or not," she said.
For Knox, it was a bittersweet decision to take the money down because some of the bills hold sentimental value. One in particular stands out.
"I would say the family with the soldier that went to war and he didn't come back. And my God, as far as I know, you know, there could be hundreds of those dollars up on the wall."
Knox's friends have also participated in the tradition.
"A couple of my friends got married several times and they've got several wedding dollars on the walls too," she said. "That was kind of funny."
There's also a $5 Canadian bill on the wall signed by a mysterious "Spence and Tuzi."
Knox says the public response to the bar's decision to take down the money has been positive.
"When people heard what was happening they weren't like, 'Oh, I want my dollar back,'" she said. "They were like, 'Oh my God. My late husband, this is exactly what he would have wanted.'
"I knew it would be shocking for people. I didn't ask for permission. I sort of just assumed that people's hearts were in the right place right now, and they were. I mean, the response has been overwhelming. This is what they wanted with their money."
Written by Katie Geleff. Interview with Jennifer Knox produced by Morgan Passi.