In response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has necessitated mass closure of businesses, cancellation of planned events and economic hardship for many, Congress in March passed a stimulus bill that included direct cash payments of $1,200 for most Americans.

While some will use this cash assistance to cover rent, utilities and other bills in April, those who aren’t facing immediate financial stress may choose to spend the money more charitably, and in a way that directly stimulates the economy. This is exactly what one Floyd resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, chose to do last week.

“Basically what he said was, ‘I would like to use my stimulus package to purchase these gift cards to give out to people in the community who are on the front lines,’” Bootleg BBQ proprietor Jon Beegle recounted.

The anonymous donor purchased 48, $25 gift cards from the barbecue restaurant that operates out of a trailer on South Locust Street, using his entire $1,200 stimulus check from the federal government. The gift cards will be given to members of the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office.

Beegle explained that the man had heard buying gift cards was an effective way to support small businesses at the moment. While businesses may be closed or offering reduced services, buying a gift card now, for food you’ll eat after the crisis has passed, can help businesses stay afloat. The gift cards act almost like a short-term loan.

“That’s kind of what the gentleman told me, is that he had heard people were promoting the purchase of gift cards, and that’s what motivated him to use that process to make this donation to people,” Beegle said. He added that in his personal experience as a business owner, “purchasing gift cards is a really huge help.”

For its part, Bootleg BBQ is weathering the storm of the pandemic better than some. Its unique set up has allowed the business to stay open while still complying with the governor’s orders and the latest sanitation guidance.

The business operates out of a trailer, where an employee is inside and food is handed through a window to customers outside. “That’s worked out really well, because…there’s the physical barrier of glass in between, people can come up and order. Maintaining distance is fairly easy with the customer standing outside,” Beegle said.

Beegle said most people have been ordering by phone and picking up their food at the trailer, a grab-and-go situation. But the trailer is surrounded by outdoor seating, and some customers have been taking advantage of that too, respectfully. “When it’s sunny outside, I have seen people sitting outside in the chairs, but they always make sure there’s a couple tables between them and someone else,” Beegle said. He said the restaurant has kept hand sanitizer out for people to use.

Bootleg has stayed open seven days a week, its normal spring schedule, but Beegle said the restaurant has been taking precautions to keep employees safe and healthy. “We’re being very cautious about people resting, and making such that they’re taking care of themselves,” Beegle said. “We’re paying really close attention to hygiene.”

Beelge explained how support from the wider Floyd restaurant community has helped Bootleg BBQ stay open.

“It’s interesting that, because some of the other restaurants have closed, we have a group of people that are in the food industry that we can pull from,” Beegle said. “So if someone’s feeling under the weather, or not feeling comfortable coming to work, we have someone else that we can call to kind of fill those spots.”

Beegle said over the last few weeks, Bootleg has completed “a lot of training” for these new, stopgap employees. Recently, the business also set up online ordering. You can find Bootleg BBQ on Facebook or at bootlegq.com.

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