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SEASONAL SLOWDOWN: Fort Myers Beach restaurants experience a significant drop in sales as tourist season ends

Posted at 10:55 PM, Apr 30, 2024

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — Fort Myers Beach restaurant owners are facing more challenges as the visitor numbers are decreasing and rebuilding efforts are ongoing.

Tom Houghton, owner of La Ola, which currently operates out of a food truck and two shipping containers in Times Square, noted a sharp decrease in patronage.

"From the peak of season until now, we're probably down at least 30%," Houghton shared. His plans to fully rebuild the restaurant remain uncertain.

Adjacent to La Ola, Fred Mallone of soon-to-be-open Buffalo Grill shared similar concerns. "If they do the rebuild down here, I think it's going to be very, very expensive for rent," Malone said. He expects their rent prices to eventually soar due to the high costs associated with the Times Square rebuild.

Other businesses have decided to adjust their operations in response to fluctuating demand. Some have chosen to remain closed on certain days, while others, like The Whale, owned by Mike and Dawn Miller, are preparing for a mid-May groundbreaking ceremony for their rebuild.

The Millers faced a catastrophic loss when Hurricane Ian struck just three and a half months after they purchased their restaurant.

"We didn't expect Hurricane Ian to take our investment," the couple expressed.

Since March, the Millers have seen their sales plummet by 60%. In an effort to keep serving customers, they have been operating out of a tent and rotating local food trucks to manage food service.

"We get calls for reservations every day, but you don't really need any," Dawn Miller added, highlighting the decrease in regular business.

The impact extends beyond the restaurant owners to their staff. Waiters at these establishments report waiting up to an hour and a half into their shifts before seeing their first table of the day.