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Red tide hurts 70% of Venice businesses, survey finds

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VENICE, FL (WWSB) - "It’s been a bugger of a summer with the construction going on and the red tide," said Mark Andes, owner of Island Life Hammock Company on Venice Avenue.

Island Life's sales are down 70% compared to last year, according to Andes. He blames the red tide for the drop, but he isn’t the only Venice business impacted by the toxic algae.

A survey by Venice MainStreet and the Chamber of Commerce found red tide cost local businesses a total of nearly $1,000,000 in August alone.

Venice MainStreet CEO sent the results of that survey to ABC7. The group surveyed 135 Venice-area businesses, and found:

  • 71.8% of businesses are located within three miles of the beach or Intracoastal
  • 72.5% of businesses surveyed report a drop in business compared to August 2017, and 8.1% of business report an increase in sales
  • 10.3% of businesses said they experienced a drop of more than 50%
  • 36.2% of businesses had to cut employee hours
  • Businesses reported a $955,203 loss total, without outliers. The average business lost about $15,000.
  • Including the outliers (numbers that were extremely high), businesses lost $4,955,203, with the average business losing $79,000.

"Folks aren’t comfortable breathing the air," said Andes.

"Sometimes they have the smell with the red tide which makes people cough when they open the door," explained Lynn Cloarec, co-owner of Croissant and Co.

Despite the smell and dead fish nearly a mile a way on the beach, Cloarec told ABC7 the red tide hasn't made a major impact. Instead, she blames the construction project on Venice Avenue, which is what customers first see when they leave her café.

"Mostly because people couldn’t park and there weren’t side passages for people to get across," said Cloarec of the construction, which has closed the eastbound side of the street.

Most business owners knew of the construction one year in advance, making it easier to budget before the project.

"We didn’t make allowances for the red tide. I think the red tide has been more detrimental than the construction has," stated Andes.

Some businesses are making up for the loss by staying open later on nice beach days, hoping beach-goers will visit in the late afternoon.

Andes is looking at the glass half full, grateful the red tide hit before his busiest months.

"It’s weird to say this but it couldn’t have happened at a better time since we’re off season," said Andes.

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