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Bartender keeps local saloon in business after it went for sale during pandemic

TAMPA, Fla. — A popular South Tampa neighborhood bar was in limbo during the pandemic, leaving the patrons and staff with no clear future. That’s when one of their own decided to step up and buy it.

For the past three years, Katie Haggerty has been stocking cold beer and pouring stiff drinks as a bartender at the Bel Mar Saloon.

“This neighborhood is amazing, it would break our hearts if this place closed down, we actually met here,’” said Haggerty, referring to her boyfriend and bar regular Daniel Foltz.

So Haggerty and Foltz put their hearts and finances on the line and purchased the saloon in September.

“I think everybody was pretty shocked but it’s been nothing but excitement, always positive, nobody has been like, ‘what are you thinking,’” said Haggerty.

They said their first order of business was to keep the status quo.

“The previous owners and management, they instilled everything in me that I know today and I can’t thank them enough,” said Haggerty.

“Seeing us kind of take it over and then also continue what he built I think is important for both of us,” said Foltz.

Not only did they retain old staff members, but they also added some new ones. Not an easy task during a pandemic.

“Some people’s livelihoods were destroyed after this and seeing that this bar was able to stay open, that she could salvage it is just a really feel good feeling for everyone involved,” said bartender Lauren Rogers.

Haggerty said she was never too worried about the risk because she already had one of the most important elements when it comes to running a successful business.

“Loyalty is the key word to it, we have people come in every day, they love the staff, they love us,” said Haggerty. “I’m pretty sure some people will be invited to our wedding and maybe Christmas this year here, they are family, they are friends, it’s crazy how it evolved.”

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