Boar’s Head Lounge in Athens, Ga., usually looks like a typical college bar.
There are dangling Christmas lights, advertisements for nightly drink deals and, of course, plenty of swag championing the University of Georgia, which is less than a mile away.
And then there are the dollars — thousands of graffitied bills featuring handwritten notes from customers — which, until a week ago, hung around the Boar’s Head’s central bar. Now, those decorations will be paychecks.
David Hartley, the bar’s general manager, is giving the bills to his 20 or so employees, who have had little to no income amid the bar’s shutdown over the past several weeks.
“For me and my staff and the bar, it’s very awkward and weird right now,” Hartley said. “It’s the unknown, and just not having the family atmosphere — from the staff and also the regulars. It’s been very weird and sad.”
He added that the idea came from his wife, who saw how much the workers were struggling.
“The staff is very much on edge and very, very poor,” Hartley said. “It’s desperate times.”
Hartley’s solution: Pull down the money that has decorated his bar for years and give it to people he knows deserve it. The process of removing and cleaning the bills took a few days and plenty of help, but eventually, the bar had counted up $4,021, which will be split evenly among each staff member.
At first, Hartley didn’t tell his employees about the idea. A few days later, he sent the entire staff a group message, letting them know what they meant to him.
“[I told them], ‘I’m doing it for y’all, because y’all work your butts off for me day in and day out,'” he told In The Know.
Then the bar announced the campaign on Instagram, where it asked followers to guess the final count. Harley said the five closest guessers will get a Boar’s Head T-shirt, a move he hopes will bring more awareness to their cause.
And the word is spreading. Hartley said he’s also received hundreds of messages from regulars asking about the money, as well as regulars wanting to know if the decorations will ever return. The manager told In The Know that as soon as things return to “normal,” new decorations will go up.
But at the current moment, Hartley is focused on his staff, and the community at large. He noted that Athens — a town of around 120,000 people where more than 40,000 people either attend or work for the university — is “based on small businesses.”
With the school currently closed and quarantine measures in full effect, many of those businesses have been struggling.
“Whether it’s a bar or a restaurant or whatever, it’s all small businesses and we’re all in this together,” Hartley said. “Everybody feels the pain.”
If you liked this story, check out In The Know’s article on the deaf Trader Joe’s employee who received a heartwarming gift from his coworkers.
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