Although Dorian narrowly missed Flagler, the effects from being forced to close for nearly a week were felt.
With Hurricane Dorian barreling toward Florida’s east coast, the business owners of Flagler Beach prepared for the worst.
Business owners were already dealing with the economic impact brought on by the construction along AIA — a direct result of the last two hurricanes to rip through Flagler Beach. A third storm could prove catastrophic for businesses.
Although Dorian turned east back out into the Atlantic Ocean, narrowly missing Flagler, the effects from being forced to close for nearly a week were felt.
“It’s hard enough to run any business, let alone a restaurant, and be successful,” said Scott Fox, the owner of Tortugas Florida Kitchen and Bar. “This is taking a toll on all of us — personally, physically, emotionally, financially. We’re just fighting through it and just hoping to get through hurricane season without another disaster. It seems like all we’ve had is adversity. We’re trying to overcome one obstacle after another.”
Johnny Lulgjuraj, the owner of Oceanside Beach Bar and Grill, doesn’t really like to keep food in the freezer.
“We don’t do that here,” he said. “We believe in having fresh food always.”
With the threat of Dorian’s arrival, Oceanside staff cooked all of their food and donated it to first responders and other residents within the Flagler Beach community.
The goal was to wait until the last possible moment before shutting down. They wanted to be the last to close and the first to open — and they were close to doing so. But an 80-person staff made achieving that feat difficult.
“We had people who were scared for their lives,” Lulgjuraj said. “Whether they’re being truthful or not, it’s just one of those things where if you’re truly scared, we won’t hold you accountable.”
Oceanside closed after the bridge connecting Flagler Beach to the mainland was closed off. It reopened 7 a.m. Friday, Sept. 6, when the bridge was reopened and evacuation orders ceased.
Faro Beachside Eatery owners Dario Carbone and Alexia Tarantino followed a similar pattern. Their restaurant remained open until the bridge closed, and they were quite busy. They reopened on the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 5.
“Some places end up shutting down because of this. It’s absolutely difficult to deal with, but we’re in it for the long game. We try to do anything we can to survive.”
JOHNNY LULGJURAJ, owner of Oceanside Beach Bar and Grill
“Everyone told us that we’re going to lose power,” Carbone said. “That’s the biggest thing that we need to prepare for. Fortunately, with the menu we have, we don’t really have frozen stuff. It’s mainly fresh produce. It doesn’t take up too much space in a sense. It’s mainly going to just preparing for power outages.”
Business owners and residents alike are grateful that Dorian never made landfall. But the fact that Florida is just now approaching the peak of hurricane season is a cruel reminder that they’re not safe from the storms yet.
“We’re just praying to God that we’re spared another season,” Fox said. “Hopefully we can rebound from the previous three years. We just hope to be able to do what we do: operate a business without some sort of obstacle ending us.”