‘Mika McBride is a bartender at La Ola in Fort Myers Beach. And despite it being happy hour, there’s a good amount of empty seats — all a few days before the Labor Day weekend begins.
Beach businesses are concerned that red tide might mess with the usual holiday visitors.
“Right now it’s slow on the beach,” McBride said, who works part time at La Ola. “I’m the only one here today. This time of year it is slow regardless but the fact that people can’t go in the water – it’s even worse.”
The water is looking better, but the beaches are still empty due to red tide.
Melissa Mitchel, is the lead bartender at Sunset Beach Tropical Grill and The Playmore Tiki Bar. Without doubt, she knows the culprit that lead the business to be most barren.
“Red tide obviously,” Mitchel said. “It’s killed us this season. It’s still bad in certain areas.”
Jacki Liszak, who is president of the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, said that the businesses are struggling, especially those in the hospitality industry.
“We’re concerned for them and we’re concerned for the businesses,” Liszak said, who is clearly frustrated with the repercussions of the recent environmental crisis.
Despite an increase in the tourist development tax rate from 4 percent to 5 percent in 2017, those funds are projected to decrease in the 2018 summer months. It is an important source of revenue.
SWFL businesses — restaurants, hotels and more — have already reported sharp declines in revenue because of the environmental crisis.
“Come on down, we need you!” he said. “Get out here! Come have some fun. The beach is beautiful, it’s clear, the weather is great and our music is still live and the drinks are cool so get out here!”
Free parking at Fort Myers Beach is being offered as an incentive to increase turnout. Officials are hoping the savings will entice residents and tourist to spend their time there during Labor Day weekend.
The #SWFLChallenge aims to highlight local businesses . It has been widely adopted by residents and business professionals ready to move on from the negative attention that has plagued the area in both local and national news.
“For my friends and us here at this restaurant I hope that we’re packed and busy,” McBride said, as she prepared drinks for customers. “Everyone’s sitting drinking margaritas and listening to our live entertainment and enjoying themselves regardless of the water.”