WASHINGTON — For one local restaurant owner, a personal connection to the Virgin Islands sparked the need to help after Hurricane Irma and an especially destructive hurricane season.
Jill Tyler, co-owner of Tail Up Goat in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, grew up on St. Thomas and still has family in the region, on St. John. She’s turning to the D.C. restaurant community to help raise funds for relief efforts.
“It’s pretty hard to be so far away and seeing what is rolling in with the little bits of communication coming out of the island,” she said, recalling that she’s had her fair share of storms.
Tyler and her family moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1989 just before Hurricane Hugo hit, which was “at the time the most costly hurricane ever in the Atlantic Ocean,” according to the National Weather Service’s website. She was in kindergarten.
“We’d just moved to the islands. There were teachers. We’d just gotten there, and Hurricane Hugo headed our way and took our roof off,” Tyler said.
“We were in the closet with a mattress over our heads, and I remember them singing nursery school songs to us to keep us occupied as this kind of storm raged over head.”
It’s hard to imagine living through a hurricane unless you’ve experienced it, Tyler said, stressing that the recovery could take months, not just a few weeks. And that was for people who were still lucky enough to have homes, she emphasized.
“It’s just a really, really hard existence for the next while for everyone who just got so battered by Hurricane Irma and now Maria right on her heels,” Tyler said.
More than two dozen local restaurants are joining Tail Up Goat with its #dcdrinksforvi effort. Each restaurant will have a Caribbean-inspired drink on its menu for at least the next four weeks and $1 from each drink sold will be donated. Some participating establishments include Convivial, Himitsu, 2 Amy’s, Hazel, Petworth Citizen, Bourbon and more. See a full list on Tail Up Goat’s website.
Tyler said responses to help have been “overwhelming” and the D.C. restaurant community has been very supportive.
“I really wanted to try to make the largest impact possible,” she said. “So drinks are popping up all over town; people have committed to keeping them on for a month.”
Tyler has also given suggestions on where donations can go: St. John Rescue, Kenny Chesney’s Love For Love City Foundation, Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands and Tim Duncan’s 21 U.S. Virgin Island Relief Fund.
As for the name Tail Up Goat, Tyler said it was inspired by a phrase from her childhood on the islands.
“And with St. John especially being about 70 percent national park, it’s kind of overrun with donkeys and goats and sheep, and to tell the difference between the goats and the sheep, the saying is ‘tail up, goat; tail down, sheep.'”
WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this story.