by Cori Santucci | April 7, 2020

An Anonymous Buyer Spent $40k on a Bottle of Bourbon to Support a Tampa Restaurant

The owners were only asking for $20,000 for the Pappy Van Winkle to help pay their employees during the pandemic. Then, this mystery patron stepped in.

Whisky glass and bottle
The couple owned the rare Pappy Van Winkle bourbon for more than a decade. Photography courtesy of pixabay

Roger and Suzanne Perry, owners of the gastropub Datz in Tampa and St. Petersburg, thought they would own their 25-year-old bottle of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon forever. 

The prized spirit, bottled from the oldest barrels ever produced at the legendary distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, sat perfectly preserved and unopened on the couple’s shelf for more than a decade. It’s one of 710 rare whiskeys produced in the batch, and it carried a hefty price tag, too. Roger had seen this type of bourbon go for anywhere from $17,000 to $26,000.

rare 25-year-old bottle of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.
The rare 25-year-old bottle of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. Photography courtesy of Datz Restaurant Group

The Perrys never intended to part with the beloved bourbon, but when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, priorities changed. The virus forced their two restaurants to transition to take-out only, which dealt a significant blow to their revenue. With mounting fears that they wouldn’t be able to pay their employees, the restaurateurs turned to old Pappy.

The owners posted the rare bottle of bourbon on their online to-go menu—right next to the draft beer and french fries—for a cool $20,000, hoping to use the money to keep their employees on the payroll. No announcements or advertisements were made beyond the to-go menu. In fact, the Perrys weren’t even sure patrons would take the new item seriously. 

“It was an unexpected, ridiculous thing to do,” Suzanne said.

For days the couple received lowball offers from $10,000 to $15,000, until Wednesday, April 1, when a regular called hoping to purchase the bottle for the asking price. The trio agreed to meet in person, and when the man arrived, he handed Suzanne and Roger a check for $40,000—double the amount they had agreed on. He asked to remain completely anonymous.

All of the money will fund Datz staff paychecks, covering about two weeks of pay for 33 employees. It also gives Datz the manpower to make meals for hospital staff members, paramedics and other frontline workers in the community. The Perrys are more than grateful for the man’s grand gesture.

“I intend to pay it forward to him as soon as I can,” Suzanne said. “Now we can keep our core people going.”

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