Popular Tampa Bay cafe raising money to help staff post-Irma

Hurricane gusts, rain severely damaged AJ's Press
Posted at 10:32 PM, Sep 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-19 23:25:01-04

As a popular Tampa Bay sandwich shop recovers from Hurricane Irma, its owners are working to raise money to help their staff survive the temporary closure. 

In the short time it's been open, AJ's Press has already outgrown its cozy space on Cortez Avenue in Tampa. 

"Organically how this place has grown, has been such a gift," said Jill Lynn, who owns the business with her husband. 

AJ's Press also received an impressive fourth-place ranking on Yelp's top 100 places to eat in America.

But the cafe's swift success hit a wall last week. 

"Everything was wet and the drywall was just half hanging in a loop and half of it just all over the floors," explained Lynn. 

Irma's hurricane gusts and rain destroyed the dining area. Lynn can't say how long her employees will be out of work.  

"This is how they take care of their families, this is how they feed their children," she said.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is now offering Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) for employees fired or furloughed as a direct result of Hurricane Irma. That includes people who can't work because the storm damaged or destroyed their place of employment.

DUA is available from weeks of unemployment from Sept. 10, 2017-March 17, 2018. To file a DUA claim, click here or call 1-800-385-3920.

RELATED: Disaster Unemployment Assistance could provide you relief after Hurricane Irma

For more information on disaster unemployment assistance, click here.

While waiting on help from the state, AJ's owners are raising money for their own staff members to help keep them and their families afloat. You can donate to the group's GoFundMe page. 

"They live paycheck to paycheck," said Lynn. "I just want to be able to keep them and keep their life going."