If you choose to sit at the bar or dine indoors at Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub, you know the walls and ceiling are covered with dollar bills, signed and decorated by restaurant patrons. What you might not know is that that every few years, restaurant staffers take the bills down, one by one, to donate them to a good cause.
In the past, the bills have benefited victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the 2005 hurricanes, and, most recently, the Haitian earthquake three years ago.
The latest beneficiary of Mar Vista’s dollar bills is 15-year-old Austin Goncalves, who contracted ciguatera, a potentially deadly illness, during a fishing trip in the Bahamas. Mar Vista staffers removed $1,200 worth of bills this afternoon for the Goncalves family to use toward Austin’s medical bills.
Another local teen, Marlin Ellis, contracted the illness as well on the same trip but has been released from a hospital. Austin continues to receive treatment. Ellis’ parents, Adam and Maryanne, who own Blue Marlin Grill, 121 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, are hosting a charity event for Austin from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 2, to help raise money for medical expenses.
The tradition dates back to the early 1900s, when the restaurant was a fish camp. Fishermen would write their names on a dollar bill and leave it at their seat at the bar — so when they came back, if they hadn’t caught anything for dinner, they could pay for a beer and a sandwich.
“It’s a tradition here at Mar Vista,” says Caryn Hodge marketing director for the Chiles Restaurant Group, which consists of the Sandbar, Mar Vista and The BeacHhouse, “It’s something that has continued on through the years and when the walls are full, we donate.”
The walls in Mar Vista accumulate between $800 and $1,500 each time.
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