Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Business

Beach business owners optimistic despite damage from Tropical Storm Debby

Tropical Storm Debby took a severe toll on Pinellas County beaches, but many business owners say they are not worried about long-term impact.

"We weathered the storm," said Christine Madelaine, owner of Sandy's restaurant in Indian Rocks Beach.

The state of the beaches might keep Florida natives away, Madelaine says, but she does not foresee a huge drop-off in tourist business.

When the weather drives people off the beach, for whatever reason, they usually pick nearby beach restaurants as their refuge, she says.

"It's the same every year," Madelaine said.

Wolfgang Ruch, owner of Sunsational Beach Rentals, said it's still too early to tell what kind of long-term effects beach erosion will have on business, but he knows some areas will fare better than others.

His two hotels on Clearwater Beach will suffer more than his hotel on Madeira Beach, just because that region was hit harder in the storm.

No guests have canceled their reservations yet, but he expects they will soon.

"I think we're going to get some once it hits the news that this beach is impacted and that beach is under water," Ruch said. "But I don't think the storm is going to impact our business a whole lot."

Linda Rideout, manager of the Dolphin Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach, said the hotel's 12 ground-floor, beachfront rooms won't be rented out until the end of the week. Other than that, she says, it's business as usual.

High tides and heavy rain left pools of water in front of those rooms, blocking access to the beach. There was no internal damage, but the hotel doesn't want guests to have to wade through water to get to the sand. "We were very fortunate," she said.

It's much the same at the Hurricane restaurant in Pass-a-Grille.

Owner Bruno Falkenstein said the restaurant suffered some minor damage during the storm — three picnic tables, a set of double doors and about $5,000 worth of computer equipment were lost — but the beach is still in relatively good shape.

Although it may take a month or two, the beaches that did erode will recover, he said.

"People shouldn't be afraid to come out," Falkenstein said.

Tom Worsham, vacationing here in Madeira Beach until Thursday, certainly isn't.

The beaches are "messy," but he said that made it easier for him to find some nice seashells to take home to Roanoke, Va.

"And the waves make for some good body surfing, if you're idiot enough to get out there," Worsham said.

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