Businesses working hard to offset red tide

red tide business challenges
The Waterfront restaurant in Anna Maria is one of the many Island businesses being impacted by the red tide. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

The Sun reached out to the local business community on Sunday to see how their Labor Day weekend was going as they continue to rebound from the red tide’s economic impacts.

“Business has picked up a little, but our employees are stressed because they need to pay their rent. We just need everyone to know it’s not bad out here. We had people sitting outside all day yesterday,” said Shannon Dunnan, manager at the Bridge Tender Inn & Dockside Bar in Bradenton Beach.

“A good rebound, however, the absence of a cleanup program in Sarasota Bay is not helping as the east winds are driving seagrass and dead fish into the canals and eastern shores of Longboat Key. But people are out, and it’s definitely improved since last week,” said Robert Baugh, chief operating officer for the Mar Vista, BeachHouse and Sandbar restaurants in Longboat Key, Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria.

“Business picked up last night. The week was slow, but our employees are hanging in there,” said Jason Suzor, owner of The Waterfront restaurant in Anna Maria.

“It’s definitely slowed down, but we’ve been doing OK. I was asking around the Island, and it seems this weekend everybody’s had a little boost in sales,” said Brad Lisk, bartender at D Coy Ducks in Holmes Beach.

“Business is picking up. It’s nowhere near last year’s Labor Day weekend yet, but we’re running Maine lobsters for $14.99 to help bring guests into our restaurants. Our staff really appreciates the guests coming in, and they’re hanging in there,” said John Horne, president of the Anna Maria Oyster Bar in Bradenton Beach.

“Business was good yesterday, but it’s still down over 25 percent for September. We’re having all-you-can-eat snow crab today, and it’s beautiful out,” said Bob Slicker, general manager of the Swordfish Grill in Cortez.

“The weekend has seen a good turnout with positive vibes. The employees are feeling nervous about what the next few months will hold during a slower season with red tide and all the media coverage. We are doing creative promos and specials to bring locals and tourists in and the locals are providing positive support,” said Scott Lubore, owner of the Freckled Fin in Holmes Beach.

“Our week leading up to Labor Day weekend was down about 25 percent over last year, but the good news is through two days of the holiday weekend we’re flat in our year-over-year comparison. We’re seeing people and their feedback has been positive about how clean the beaches are and no red tide smell. I had to lay off three part-time associates last week. Hopefully, that will be temporary. My full-time associates took an extra unpaid day off last week and will again this week,” said Brian Seymour, owner of the Anna Maria General Store.

“We had lots of cancellations prior to the weekend because people were reacting from the two weeks prior, but we had a handful of check-ins. Everyone’s supporting each other and keeping spirits up as they know this is out of their control. I just hope business picks up soon, so we can keep the wheels on the bus turning,” said Duncan Real Estate owner Darcie Duncan.

“Business was very quiet until Saturday and Sunday. This weekend we had a lot of Florida visitors. My sales are way down compared to last year, and all the businesses are struggling,” said Gayden Shell, owner of The Uptown Lot in Bradenton Beach.

“Business is better and the staff’s morale is swinging upward,” said Kit Bradman, general manager of Island Time Bar & Grill and Bridge Street Bistro in Bradenton Beach.

“We had our best Friday and Saturday in what feels like a month. Our employees have been hurting deeply in their pockets. Hopefully, some good publicity and the red tide passing will bring business back to our beautiful Island and help return us to normal,” said Doreen Flynn, manager of Drift In in Bradenton Beach.

“The red tide’s been a lot better the last few days. Today was pretty good. The week was spotty: one day would be good and the next day it wouldn’t. Hopefully, it’s on the upswing,” said Karen Bell, owner of the Starfish Co. Market & Restaurant in Cortez.

“The fish house has been fine. The guys have been fishing more to the north and the offshore guys aren’t really affected,” she said of the AP Bell Fish Co.

“We’re hanging in there. The special we ran this week helped get our locals out and they’ve been so supportive and generous. We were able to open the outside seating again on Friday. It’s not been as busy as usual for Labor Day weekend, but there’s definitely been an increase so we’re staying positive and optimistic,” said Staci Stern, bartender at Tide Tables in Cortez.

“We had a great weekend. It’s been a little slower than normal, but’s always slow this time of year. Our employees could use a few more shifts, but everyone is hanging in there – and our winter friends will soon be coming back,” said Adam Ellis, owner of the Blue Marlin Grill in Bradenton Beach.