Hudson restaurateur paying employees $100 to take the jab

From left, Laura Jones, Mambi Olmstead, Anjolie Antonie, general manager Toni Clark, and owner Chris Overbeck pose inside the Hudson restaurant Overbeck has operated for 10 years. Overbeck is offering his 20 employees $100 each to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Staff members will be getting their jab as they qualify for an appointment.

HUDSON — Chris Overbeck, owner of the Beef O’Brady’s on State Road 52 in Hudson, is offering a hundred bucks to each of his 20 employees if they’ll take the COVID-19 vaccine.

That’s $100 in cold cash, not in hot wings, he says, adding the offer is what he calls a “no-brainer” for any business owner who cares about his employees and customers.

“It just makes sense,” said the franchise owner of the restaurant in the Publix shopping center at 14851 State Road 52. “It protects them, the customers and their families at home.”

Overbeck opened the restaurant famous for its Buffalo chicken wings and sandwiches and a few other specialties 10 years ago. It’s been good business for himself and his employees until about this time last year, when he shut down for two months after the pandemic descended upon Pasco County.

“I knew it was going to hurt everyone, so I was able to pay everyone while we were down,” he said. “No one knew where things were going at that time, but I wanted to be sure they were paid.”

Later, Overbeck applied for and received government reimbursements for the salaries he paid during the closure. The restaurant reopened in May, but with much less business. Most customers since have been ordering online and picking up curbside, he said. That shift means servers don’t make as much in tips because of it.

“It’s been tough and we’re not back all the way yet,” Overbeck said.

Anjolie Antonie, 20, a server at the restaurant, said she’s going to get the vaccine as soon as it is available to people her age. She appreciates the $100 bonus from her boss, but said she would be vaccinated regardless, as she wants to protect her elderly family members, her customers and fellow workers. Antonie is in nursing school when she’s not waiting tables.

“I live with my grandmother, who’s 83,” she said. “She’s already gotten the first of two shots; I’m hoping to get the single-dose (version).”

Overbeck said he plans to approach Publix about the possibility of someone coming to the restaurant to administer the vaccine.

“Don’t know if we can work something like that out, but we could have everyone line up and get it,” he said.

Overbeck, who has received the first of his two shots, said he’s hopeful that with more people vaccinated and herd immunity factoring in, the pandemic will soon subside and things can return to normal.

“We want to get back to where the servers aren’t wearing masks with the customers,” he said. “We’re looking forward to getting back to where we were.”