More Than 200 Served At Apple Lounge Bartender Benefit
by James Coulter
Like many other local bars and eateries, Apple Lounge has closed its main dining hall since the stay-at-home order was passed in lieu of the COVID-19 outbreak.
While the bar and eatery has been able to remain afloat during these uncertain times by offering to-go drinks and gift certificates, its main staff, being forced to remain at home, has been financially struggling and in need of assistance.
Fortunately, last Saturday offered them an opportunity to receive assistance through proceeds raised during the Bartender Benefit.
More than 200 barbecue meals with pulled pork, baked beans, and cole slaw were sold during the event, allowing customers to pull up to the parking lot and buy their meals for $7 each, though some customers were more than willing to pay more, said Melinda Ross, General Manager.
Ross and the other staff members loved being able to come out that day to see their regular customers and interact with them after nearly two months of remaining at home. When they will re-open remains in the air, but she hopes their bar and lounge will re-open soon and draw in quite the crowd, she said.
“We love to see some of our regulars again, to see them together again,” she said. “We have seen plenty of familiar faces, they are anxious to come out here and see all these faces out here.”
Aside from allowing patrons, both old and new, an opportunity to purchase good old-fashioned barbecue, the benefit also allowed bartenders and other staff to come back to the bar after nearly two months away to serve their favorite customers.
One bartender, Beejay, has been with Apple Lounge for two and a half years. Since the outbreak, he has been keeping himself preoccupied with other things at home, but he misses being able to work at the bar and shoot the breeze with customers.
“They love us, and they miss us, and we miss them,” he said. “[I love] seeing everybody we haven’t seen in two months and a half…to see all my friends and family.”
Michelle Lawson, another bartender, has been with the bar for four to five years. She enjoyed being able to come out that day to serve longtime customers and patrons, and she hopes the bar opens once more so she can go back to doing all that fulltime.
“We love interacting with the customers, socializing,” she said. “[I’m looking forward to things] going back to normal.”
The proceeds from this benefit went directly towards assisting the bartenders at the bar during these uncertain times. With more than 200 meals served, their overall success has mostly been due to their loyal customer base, with many customers having visited the establishment since the bar first opened more than 30 years ago, explained owner Tim Leopard.
“Some people paid more than we asked, which is what our ultimate goal was,” he said. “We have a close relationship with our client base,…[and] this helped us survive through this time, and they have really stepped up with our to go food, they are helping us however they can.”
As with most other local establishments, Leopard hopes that his place will open up once again and that he and his staff will be able to go back to old times of serving long-time customers.
“[We look forward to] being able to get back to normal and have the relationships we have, the high fives and hugs and everything in between, we are like family,” he said. “Here the staff and customer base, we are close…they always rallied behind us and helped us with this product.”
Apple Lounge is located at 2803 Recker Hwy, Winter Haven, FL 33880. For more information, visit their website at: https://www.facebook.com/appleloungewinterhaven/?rf=706812399447116