By Mike Cugno

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Tap 42, a popular bar and restaurant where friends usually meet up for happy hour, turned into a meeting point for free meals.

The bar was helping out fellow restaurant and service industry workers who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of the popular spots here in Midtown are pretty quiet these days.

“We’ve always been really big in giving back to the community. I think the community needs it now more than ever,” said Alex Rudolph of Tap 42. “We get support from all of our customers still and that’s enabled us to keep the doors open and feed as many people as we can and employed. We’re always going to do everything we can to give back.”

This give away was orchestrated by the Miami Marlins and Tito’s Handmade Vodka. They got together with some 20 restaurants across the entire state to hand out meals. And they’re doing so with social distancing in mind.

“Folks had an opportunity to go to a website and sign up for Tito’s Food for Friends. They were able to sign up for a meal for them and an extra meal for a family member and they signed up by appointment,” said Rocky Egusquiza, the executive director of the Miami Marlins Foundation.

Participants got the Tap 42 experience, going home with one of the most popular items on the menu – the Prohibition Burger.

Most of the 20 restaurants involved in Thursday’s meal give away were located in Miami-Dade and Broward. The two counties lead the state in unemployment claims with the majority of lost jobs coming from the accommodation and food service industries.

“It’s hard, man. It’s really depressing to see a lot of people struggle. When we had to lay off a lot of our workforce because we can’t keep people to work when we’re not really open. It was one of the worst days of our professional careers. It was really, really tough. We’re just ready for it to be over and to get back to rocking and rolling,” said Rudolph.

“I think of the times I’ve come to Tap 42 and it’s crowded and you can’t even walk in here and how different things are,” said Egusquiza. “We want to be able to get back to being able to gather. We know that both baseball and the restaurant industry is going to be a unifying factor when we’re able to do that.”

About 150 meals were given out throughout the night. Overall, the Marlins and Tito’s partnership handed out more than 2,000 across the states.

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