Red Tide at Swordfish Grill

The Big Secret about Gulf Coast Businesses during Red Tide

I know, I know, Red Tide. Not exactly breaking news lately for those of us in Cortez, Anna Maria Island, Bradenton, Siesta Key and Sarasota. But here’s a hot take for you: The fish aren’t the only things floundering, so are our businesses. 

While the causes of and long-term solutions to red tide are incredibly important to question, talk about, and work together towards— it’s also imperative that we work on short-term solutions: lifting up our local economy.

People from Northern states joke that Florida doesn’t have seasons, but we know we do! We plan our whole schedules around them: Snowbird Season, Hurricane/Red Tide Season, Surface Of The Sun Season, and The One Week We Can Wear Sweaters Season. 

We’re used to the drill. During Surface Of The Sun Season everyone will request indoor seating, and order a lot more tropical drinks. The One Week We Can Wear Sweaters Season there’s an uptick in “Is there a Starbucks on Anna Maria Island?” Google searches. As Snowbird Season winds down and Hurricane/Red Tide Season ramps up, we know that work hours will be cut, traffic will clear, and money will be tighter. 

Living in an area that depends on tourism we know that some weeks will be 2-hour-waits at restaurants, and some days the rain will wash away most of your business. So, we save up during the year and live by the seasons. What we can never really anticipate is, beautiful days and business coming to a halt for months. 

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The news and media have been endlessly covering the outbreak of red tide and algae blooms in our Florida waters. I don’t blame them – they’re doing their jobs. They’ve found their story and they’re driving it hard. But what they’re not sharing much of is our stories. Those of us who are still working, living, and enjoying these beaches that are being reported as “unbearable”, we have stories too. And they’re stories of resilience. 

How our fishermen have been volunteering entire weeks cleaning up shores for no payment, because their business is washing up on them and they care about our waterfront. How our small businesses are banding together and visiting each other’s restaurants and sharing about it with their friends. How the staff at local restaurants, rental agencies, fishing charters and shops are spending each day basking in the beauty of our home but wondering if they’ll make rent— because people are deciding not to come to our beaches because all they’ve seen on the news is the same video of chum that’s been on repeat for weeks.

The Big Secret about Gulf Coast Businesses during Red TideWell, I think it’s about time we reclaim our stories. I do believe we need to educate ourselves and do what we can. Read, volunteer, vote. But don’t forget to help the people and businesses in this community, too.

Continue to visit the Gulf Coast. Many beaches are just as beautiful as normal but if a rough day comes along, everywhere has great indoor seating with a view and air conditioning! Substitute a meal at a chain restaurant for one of our hometown restaurants. Invite friends out, share on social media, lift each other up. Make it a point to tip your waitstaff extra generously, our families depend on it. Keep telling our stories of resilience, and become a part of it.

Business is open, our fish is fresh, and I’ll let you in on the big secret – there’s no wait. 

photos courtesy of The Sarasota Post and Molly Slicker

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2018-08-31