Florida

Dead fish haunt these beachfront restaurants, but customers are getting a message

The Sandbar Restaurant, on Anna Maria Island, has taken a big financial hit after red tide swarmed local beaches. The restaurant’s outdoor seating area was about one-third empty Sunday afternoon and the beach in front of the restaurant was almost empty.
The Sandbar Restaurant, on Anna Maria Island, has taken a big financial hit after red tide swarmed local beaches. The restaurant’s outdoor seating area was about one-third empty Sunday afternoon and the beach in front of the restaurant was almost empty. mmasferrer@bradenton.com

It’s no secret what the incessant presence of red tide is doing to Florida’s economy, and local restaurateur and business leaders are sick of it.

Ever since the noxious algae bloom, known as Karenia brevis, arrived full force on Manatee beaches on Aug. 5, local businesses have suffered. Between photos and videos of mounting piles of dead fish and the rotten stench in the air, what can they do?

Well, the Chiles Group, which runs three waterfront restaurants —The Sandbar in Anna Maria, The Beach House in Bradenton Beach and Mar Vista Dockside in Longboat Key — organized a meeting Tuesday with other restaurateurs, county officials, political candidates and business owners to discuss the impacts of the red tide on the local economy and coastal businesses.

Representatives from Florida Sen. Bill Galvano’s office and U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s office were also present at the meeting, Chiles Group said.

They discussed long- and short-term problems and presented varying options to address each, according to a news release.

By the end of the day, Chiles Group Chief Operating Officer Robert Baugh said their mission is to inform people that these businesses are open and red tide, while present, isn’t always as bad as it seems.

“We have people who are on the beaches and eating at our restaurants and we are open for business,” Baugh said. “Red tide is a natural occurrence, and there is a huge economic impact on coastal businesses. We are trying to get the message out that red tide changes daily and that we are open for business.”

To do that Chiles Group is assembling a series of dine-in meetings at its restaurants, the first being 5 p.m. on Wednesday evening at the Beach House at 200 Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach.

The event will be informative, Baugh said, with a few speakers expected to attend.

After this initial get-together, Chiles Group says there will be “other restaurants selected over the next days and weeks to host gatherings in order to continue the message and accurately report the current condition and effects of red tide. “

“We are going to be hitting all of our restaurants and showing people that we are open,” Baugh said. “We have to keep moving forward. We just want to bring some awareness and tell people listen, you can find a place to dine and come on out.”

Capt. Chad Huff found an 80- to 100-pound tarpon floating dead in August near Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel, where some of the worst fish kills have occurred since a red tide appeared off Southwest Florida in October 2017.

Follow Samantha Putterman on Twitter @samputterman

Manatee Public Beach and Cortez Beach on Anna Maria Island both showed a remission of red tide Wednesday afternoon as cleanup efforts and shifting winds seemed to help keep the algae bloom at bay.

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments