The news richocheted around the city and the Internet this weekend: Murray Stenson has a heart condition that is preventing him from working, and he may require surgery. Like most members of his trade, Stenson has no health insurance. He is also a legend in this town--and beyond--and Seattle's bartending community has organized like a mother to assist their industry's standardbearer.
Here's what has unfolded so far: Stenson's friend Evan Wallace--also founder of Perlage Systems and well-connected in the bar community--has organized MurrayAid. The bartender's many fans can make donations via PayPal. Here's the website and the corresponding Facebook page, a good spot for tracking events or other ways to support Murray.
A swift outpouring of support and cash followed the announcement. Twenty-four after setting up the donation page, Wallace reported 158 donations, adding up to $11,542. And, he says, the man who inspired all of this support "genuinely seemed not to know that there were so many people out there that cared about him."
Last year, Stenson ended a legendary run at Zig Zag Cafe and went to work at Jamie Boudreau's bar Canon. Boudreau is serving as point person for a number of benefits being organized to support the barman, renowned just as much for his gracious demeanor as his skills with a drink. So far Canon has a MurrayAid night tentatively scheduled for October 30, and Zig Zag is having a benefit November 4. Paratii Craft Bar also has something in the works October 27 and 28.
As Mike Seely wrote in his Seattle Weekly profile of Stenson earlier this year, "everybody has a Murray Stenson story." The man's talents and hospitality have brightened (and blurred) the nights of so many people; it's gratifying to see that reflected back on him.
The money raised so far is impressive, but if someone's facing open heart surgery, it doesn't go far. So, if you have a Murray Stenson story, or simply enjoy good drinks and the people who make them, consider donating to MurrayAid. And once you're done, Paul Clarke's reflection on Stenson is a lovely read.