Anonymous chain of generous tips start after a bartender’s death

Restaurant bills with generous tips and the message ‘Put it on Pete’s tab’ written on them have been baffling waiters in southwest Florida.

Mystified waiters started sharing images of the bills on social media and the hashtag #putitonpetestab started to gain popularity online.

“Everyone was kind of like ‘what is this?’” Marisa Scolaro, a Cape Coral-based bartender told NBC.

Ms Scolaro had received one of the bills with the message and shared in on online to try and figure out what it meant.

“Everyone was like ‘who is Pete? And is he just paying for everyone’s stuff?’” she said.

Two photos of restaurant bills say 'Put it on Pete's tab'.
Waiters have been left perplexed by bills saying 'Put it on Pete's tab' such as the ones pictured here. Source: Facebook/Put It On Pete's Tab, Inc.

The real story was actually the opposite.

Pete O’Brien was a bartender who passed away suddenly in March from an illness that started with an ear infection, according to NBC.

Like most hospitality workers in the US, Mr O’Brien didn’t have medical insurance and put off treatment for his ear infection until it was too late.

Mr O’Brien was known among family and friends for leaving large tips usually exceeding 50 per cent of the total for servers when visiting restaurants and bars, despite his own modest income.

In the US a 20 per cent tip is usually considered a generous standard for good service, so Mr O’Brien quickly gained a reputation for being generous and kind.

When Mr O’Brien passed away his family found cash and cheques with a note that said they should consider this “Peter’s last big fat tip” so they decided to gift it to his friends who had recently lost their jobs due to coronavirus closing down bars and restaurants.

This sparked the idea to create Pete’s Tab as a way to honour Mr O’Brien and help struggling hospitality workers, within two weeks they had raised over $1000 in donations.

Pete O’Brien pictured with two friends at a bar (left) and on his own looking happy (right). Source: Facebook/Put It On Pete's Tab, Inc.
Pete O’Brien was always a generous tipper. Source: Facebook/Put It On Pete's Tab, Inc.

“Put It On Pete's Tab exists to take care of the people that take care of us, the essential but often forgotten workers in the hospitality industry,” the website explains.

Pete’s Tab officially launched as a registered non profit in May and surpassed $10,000 in contributions a little over a month later.

The group assists with rent, medical bills, utility bills, groceries and leaving “big fat tips” for servers who are nominated and in need of help.

Ms Scolaro said she received more than $1000 to help with rent and bills from Pete’s Tip.

“You kind of lose your faith in humanity a little bit, but then people like this come around and they’re helping a lot,” Ms Scolaro told NBC.

“We know that most workers in the hospitality industry are one paycheque away from financial devastation and that a bad night at work can be the difference between paying rent or not,” the website reads.

The charity receives donations but also encourages what they call “guerrilla tipping” where they ask people to leave large tips at bars and restaurants and write the message “#putitonpetestab”on the bill.

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The idea “spread like wildfire” according to Mr O’Briens family

“It’s basically spreading messages of love, that’s incredible to me, that really makes my soul smile,” Emily Iafrate, Mr O’Brien’s sister, said.

Ms Iafrate said Pete’s legacy is inline with the brother she knew and the man that he was.

“To know Peter was to know generosity at its true core and to be loved by Pete was to feel love and warmth in its truest sense.”

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