As the coronavirus has swept around the globe, it has utterly altered how people interact with one another, introducing humanity to the concept of social distancing. But one unexpected side effect of the pandemic is that even with six feet between them, people are coming together.
Here in Miami, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival created a fund to aid restaurant workers, and local culinary leaders started a Go Fund Me campaign. Members of the community are doing their part as well, helping to keep the hospitality industry afloat by ordering takeout, buying local, and tipping generously.
And at David's Cafe Cafecito on Alton Road in South Beach, a few people have taken generosity to the next level.
On March 25, a David's regular stopped in to pick up his takeout dinner — two churrasco steaks and an order of ropa vieja. The order totaled $60.30, and the man paid with his credit card and left. When David's office manager Loly Parente, who was filling in at the counter, went to file the receipt, she did a double-take, then texted owner Adrian Gonzalez.
"She texted, 'I think there's a huge mistake on the check,' along with a picture of the receipt that showed a $750 tip," Gonzalez recounts.
The café owner contacted the customer and confirmed that the tip was correct. "He told me, 'No, I didn't make a mistake. I'm in a position where I can help," Gonzalez says, adding that the man requested his name not be revealed. "He's just a regular guy who owns a successful business. He donates to charities and is generous, but I never would have expected him to do that. It's so out-of-the-box. This is something for my family — my staff."
Gonzalez, who posted news of the thoughtful windfall on David's Facebook page, says when he told Parente to keep the gratuity for herself, she insisted on sharing it with her fellow workers. "I told her, 'Loly, keep the money. He gave it to you,' but she insisted it be shared. She's been with us for 28 years and she never thinks of herself."
The generosity didn't stop with one anonymous man, however.
Urged by customers to start a Go Fund Me page for his employees, Gonzalez created the David's Cafe Cafecito Employee Fund on Thursday night. This morning he found a donation of $751, contributed by a different customer. "I love this," he says. "The number is very specific. It's $751 for a reason. And my employees are benefiting from this friendly rivalry."
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Gonzalez says the gestures come as a surprise, but not a shock. "We're sort of a Cheers bar for cafecito. We have regulars and everyone knows each other by name."
He reports that business is "hanging by a piece of dental floss," with sales down about 80 percent from what normally would be a robust March economy on the beach. "Some people are scared to leave the house to pick up food, and others are wary about delivery." Still, he keeps the cafe open for his employees and for the regulars who need a cafecito fix and some Cuban comfort food.
And, despite a warning from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez that some ventanitas are too crowded, Gonzalez says his customers are being cautious. "To tell the truth, people have been very observant of the six-foot rule. I have two people right now who are drinking their coffee six feet away from each other outside the building. I believe that people want to do the right thing."
He also has plans for his two big benefactors after the coronavirus pandemic passes and human interaction returns to normal: "When this is all over, I'm going to give them a big hug."