SARASOTA - Even though the BP oil spill never washed up on the shores of Sarasota beaches, the city is still asking BP for $15 million dollars in damages.
Even though the oil never appeared here, the city says the threat of it still kept lots of tourists away.
Liz Bidoull of Detroit was thinking of coming to Sarasota a few years ago, but the threat of the oil spill drifting ashore scared her and her family away. “We were a little nervous to come down here, because of the oil spill, so we decided to go to Mexico instead.”
It turns out her fears were unfounded, and despite the massive explosion and spill in the northern Gulf, Sarasota escaped unscathed.
Now, even though not a drop of oil spilled into Lido Key, the city says the possibility kept people away and their lawyers say that represents real damage.
Sarasota is one of dozens of cities trying to recoup lost income. “We got seven months starting in April 2010, where people are holding their breath and wondering if the oil is going to show up, and not showing up here--and you take out those people who don't show up here for seven months and that's a huge monetary impact,” says Attorney Bill Robertson.
The city says it suffered $15 million dollars in lost revenue.
Resort manager Shaun Griffin heard stories of cancellations along the beach-front hotels. “People were calling with concerns about oil on the beach and concerned if they could use the Gulf of Mexico.”
“Are you going to plan a two week wedding with non- refundable tickets to go to Sarasota when oil is floating out there and the loop current is getting close to it? It was this game of cat and mouse and it just scared everybody,” says Robertson.
That includes Liz Bidoull, who is here now, just later than she expected. “It's been a few years now, so we decided to come back.”
The city cites a county survey that showed more than a third of people said the oil spill would affect their vacation choice.
Lawyers say if successful, it would take about 1/12 to 3 years to see any of that money.