TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – There’s no question the coronavirus pandemic is hitting many businesses hard – and beloved Tampa Bay restaurants like Datz are no exception.

But a surprise act of kindness is helping them continue to serve – and give back to – the community.

The owners of the Datz restaurant group – Suzanne and Roger Perry – say they went from having nearly 400 employees to just 27 overnight. They tell us they had to make a difficult decision and choose between whether to completely close their restaurants or to do just takeout and delivery at a fraction of normal sales.

“We decided to limp along and stay open as long as possible,” Suzanne Perry said in an email to WFLA. “But making even our new lower payroll numbers is difficult with the drastic reduction in revenue that we are now facing.”

Perry says they decided to sell off their prized bourbon and liquor collection in order to keep the remaining staff members employed, and even bring some others back.

The most valuable bottle in the collection was a Pappy Van Winkle Kentucky bourbon aged 25 years.

(Photo provided to WFLA by Datz)

“I put it online for sale for $20,000 with the promo code #Here4U for an additional 15 percent off,” Perry explained. “I was selling it, in reality, for $17,000 after I Googled it and saw similar bottles online for $17K to $26K.”

Perry says they received several lowball offers but didn’t entertain them.

“The stakes are too high right now,” she said.

But then they received a call from a couple who started asking questions about the restaurant’s situation. That couple eventually decided they wanted to buy the bottle.

When they showed up to pay for and pick up the bottle, Perry says they handed her husband Roger a check for $40,000.

Perry says her husband opened the check and tried to give it back because he thought it was written in error. But the man who wrote it refused to take it back and said, “We want you to have it.”

“Roger and I were both speechless and astounded by this generosity,” Perry told us.

She says the man who bought the bottle is a local veteran and philanthropist who has visited restaurants in the Datz group several times with his family. He and his family wanted to stay anonymous.

Because of the act of generosity, Perry says they’ve been able to stay open, keep their remaining staff members and bring a few more back. They’ve also made hundreds of meals for workers who are on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.

“When we get through this, we plan on doing something to pay it forward for one of the several local causes this family already supports,” Perry added.

Datz is currently open with a limited menu for takeout and delivery in both Tampa and St. Petersburg. A spokesperson for the restaurants says the best way to order is online or by calling either location to place an order for pickup.

The spokesperson explained that, while Datz is available on popular delivery platforms, the commissions are so high that the restaurant almost loses money.