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Employees at the Alba Restaurant in Quincy and Alba 53 in Hanover received $30,000 in bonuses on Thursday, which were raised from last-minute holiday gift card sales, according to a news release.
The two restaurants’ owner, Leo Keka, had pledged to donate 15% of Christmas-week gift card sales to his staff as a way to say thanks and celebrate his 30th year in the U.S. Hundreds of customers reportedly made purchases in response to his announcement.
“It has obviously been a very difficult year for everyone in the restaurant industry,” Keka wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday. “But thanks to (our customers), and of course to our best-in-the-business staff both in the front of the house and in the kitchen, we were able to serve you safely within state guidelines throughout 2020. We look forward to an even better year ahead in 2021.”
News of Keka’s donation comes days after the National Restaurant Association called the current coronavirus relief bill a “‘down payment’ that recognizes the unique damage the pandemic is inflicting on our industry.”
The Alba Restaurant has been serving customers from the Greater Boston area for 19 years while the newer Alba 53 opened its doors to the public in August. Both restaurants have been operating throughout the coronavirus pandemic with health and safety restrictions, which include capacity limits and social distancing procedures.
It’s not the first time Keka’s small business has experienced challenges. His first restaurant opened “in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks,” a time that was “terribly difficult” to open a restaurant, Alba’s press release stated.
On a personal level, Keka immigrated to the U.S. on Dec. 17, 1990. He fled communist Albania and escaped a Serbian prison before he found his way to Boston.