Fundraiser helps Columbia businesses

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COLUMBIA - A Columbia resident is raising money to help local bars and restaurants.

Bobby Atkisson started the Columbia Bar and Restaurant Fundraiser on Facebook after new restrictions on restaurants and bars were put in place by the Boone County Health Department, following a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in the area.

"I've got a lot of friends and people that I know who own these types of businesses...that were already hurting," Atkisson said. "And the restraints that were put on them again are just going to cause more hurt," Atkisson said.

The new restrictions say that restaurants and bars cannot serve alcohol after 9 p.m., and restaurants and bars serving alcohol must close by 10 p.m.

Atkisson started the fundraiser on Facebook, asking his friends to donate and name a business that they would like to see the money go to. 

"I expected it to be a couple hundred bucks," Atkisson said. "I went to bed that night, woke up the next morning, and there was $1500 in there," Atkisson said.

The donations have only increased since. As of Monday afternoon, Atkisson has raised nearly $6,000, and has already completed his first two giveaways.

"The first restaurant I went to...the owner wanted to pay it forward," Atkisson said. "It made me realize that what I was doing was special," Atkisson said.

The fundraiser comes at a time when some Columbia restaurants, like The Penguin Piano Bar, are closing permanently. 

"My industry has just pretty much disappeared in the last year," Penguin general manager Travis Oakley told KOMU 8 on Friday.

Atkisson hopes to continue giving bars and restaurants money until things return to normal.

"I want to keep it going as long as these restrictions are hurting them, as long as this virus is hurting them," Atkisson said. 

The Facebook fundraiser can be found here.