Longboat Key businesses hope for rebound after red tide clears

It's a sight no one wants to see while on vacation - dead fish littering the waterways. It was the reality at Dry Dock Waterfront Grill on Longboat Key. 

"With the respiratory conditions... and the water conditions... it's just not appetizing," said Assistant Manager Kurt Disney.

Over the last few days, Disney said things have finally shifted.

"This morning you could see straight through the water and we saw the first sign of baitfish returning," he said.

Customers are trickling back in, as well. But most of the tables remain vacant. 

Disney says he expected a slow-down once school started back up, but nothing like this, and his servers are hurting. 

"This really hit them the hardest, because they were expecting two or three weeks of August left to be pretty decent, to be able to put some money away," said Disney. 

Instead, he said business is down 50 percent from what it should be. He's worried about the long-term effects of the red tide stigma. 
Wednesday morning, the City of Sarasota declared a local state of emergency in response to the red tide effects. 

"After September, October [and] November [are] when our snowbirds start to reappear. They don't have to come back. They have homes in multiple places," said Disney. 

A survey by Visit Sarasota showed local tourism businesses lost $525,000 in revenue in just one week after red tide hit. It's working with Visit Florida to create marketing campaigns, like the ones after the BP oil spill and Hurricane Irma. 

They want to let visitors know which parts of Florida are affected and which are clear. 

A $500,000 grant from the state will help them get the message out. 

"The way you survive is by providing visitors and businesses with accurate communication you certainly don't want somebody to be surprised by the conditions," said Virginia Haley the President of Visit Sarasota. 

Small businesses that have been affected by red tide may be eligible for short-term, interest-free loans of up to $50,000 through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Business owners with two to 100 employees can apply now through October 12 at www.floridadisasterloan.org.