Cabbage Key Inn donates 6,000-plus 'fallen dollars' to help COVID-19 charities

Annabelle Tometich
Fort Myers News-Press
The Cabbage Key bar, also known as the “bar with the money on the walls,” has been serving drinks to boaters for more than 60 years.

Fun fact: If you tape a dollar bill to the money-plastered walls at Cabbage Key Inn & Restaurant, it's not likely to stay put. 

Blame the combination of humidity, blustery island breezes, too many dollars already in place, and the relative adhesive properties of various styles of tape. 

"We have about $20,000 that falls off the walls every year," Cabbage Key's owner Rob Wells said.

"We have been, for as long as I can remember, donating those fallen dollars to various charities."

The inn started a special "fallen dollars" collection last week to help Pine Island and Southwest Florida residents impacted by COVID-19.

MORE:COVID-19: 208 SWFL restaurants (and counting) offering takeout, delivery

Cabbage Key server Katie Burda collects fallen dollar bills from the restaurant's walls. The money will be donated to area charities helping those impacted by COVID-19.

Wells estimates $6,000 to $10,000 have fallen from the restaurant's walls since the last collection. He and his family will be processing the bills — removing tape and other adhesives — and donating them to the SWFL Emergency Relief Fund, a partnership between the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee. A portion of the fallen money will also go to Beacon Bites, an organization that delivers daily meals to Pine Islanders in need. 

Caroline Wells removes tape from dollar bills that have fallen from the walls at Cabbage Key Inn & Restaurant.

Cabbage Key's fallen bills have added up to more than $200,000 in donations to local charities in the last decade alone. 

When the Wells family bought Cabbage Key in 1976, the restaurant's dollar-bill tradition was firmly in place. While the custom has become a cheap form of graffiti for many, Wells believes it began as something much different. 

"You have to remember, when this started at Cabbage Key and other island bars, a dollar bought you a whole lot more than it does today," he said. 

"It was your way of saying: I've got money today but I may not have it tomorrow. So, I'm going to write my name on this dollar and keep it here so I can use it when I need it."

Wells realizes so many people "need it" now more than ever. 

"This isn't Cabbage Key money. This is money from our customers. This is possible because of our customers," Wells said. 

"I'm just grateful during a difficult time we can do a little something to help."

Cabbage Key Inn & Restaurant is only accessible by boat and is open for dockside carryout; find more at To donate to the SWFL Emergency Relief Fund click here. For more on Beacon of Hope and its Beacon Bites program, click here