As the coronavirus outbreak spreads throughout the United States, health officials and governments have made clear that the best way to reduce the number of infections is to start social distancing and canceling large gatherings. Many cities have even been forced to shut down restaurants and bars for an indefinite period.
As a result, the hospitality industry is suffering greatly, and many establishments have seen a drastic decrease in sales or have shifted to delivery and take-out models in order to stay in business and continue to pay workers.
One restaurant in Texas, however, got a little cushion from a generous guest.
A regular at Irma’s Southwest Grill in Houston came into the restaurant on Monday, March 16, ordered a modest plate of shrimp tacos, and then left a $9,400 gratuity. The anonymous customer — who has apparently been a regular of the restaurant for about 15 years — wrote on the receipt, “Hold tip to pay your guys over the next few weeks.”
Louis Galvan, the owner of the Mexican and Texas Hill Country fare restaurant, spoke to Fox News about the surprise tip and explained that a television news outlet was inside at the time doing a live feed about restaurants and bars in the Houston area being forced to shut down dining rooms.
“I think he came here just to [give that tip],” Galvan said to the network. “He came down here specifically to do that and wish us the best of luck…Everyone was amazed.”
Galvan added that the generous tip “reinvigorated the restaurant” and convinced them to stay open for delivery and take-out services. “Basically we are going to split that among the staff members, not management. So, about 30 people will split the $9,400 evenly,” he added.
“Honestly, we were going to close, but now we’re going to try and make the best out of this deal,” he said. “We’re going to make this thing work.”
In the meantime, the owner is also helping those in his community who do not have other food options. According to the Fox News report, Galvan has seen more community than competition among those in the service industry during this time. “We’re not even charging for some of the meals,” he said.
And this isn’t the first time a big tipper has made an impact amid the coronavirus crisis. Last weekend, an anonymous regular at Coaches Bar and Grill in Columbus, Ohio left a $2,500 tip on a check for $30 following news of restaurant closures in the area. “Please split this tab equally between Tara, Nicky, Jim, Liz and Arrun,” he wrote.
“There were tears of joy among everyone here,” the bar’s owner Patrick “Benny” Leonard told CNN. “On a day when I’ve never seen a shutdown like that, I’ve never seen a tip like that either.”
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As of March 18, there have been at least 10,201 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 149 deaths in the United States, according to The New York Times. The majority of the cases are in New York, Washington state, and California.
The CDC says the best prevention methods are basic forms of hygiene — careful hand washing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing, and staying home at signs of illness.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub
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