St. Augustine shops, restaurants begin to reopen after Matthew

1 week after hurricane, businesses start welcoming visitors again

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – While many residents and businesses in downtown St. Augustine are still cleaning up and repairing the damage from Hurricane Matthew, there are several shops and restaurants that have reopened to visitors.

With this being the first weekend since power was restored, business owners hope they will be able to make up for some of their losses this weekend and tourists will return to the nation's oldest city. 

Pizzalley's, an Italian restaurant on St. George Street near St. Augustine's bayfront, had customers in the dining room and staff back in the kitchen Friday evening. But getting back to business as usual has been an uphill battle for many places, including Pizzalley's. 

"People are afraid to come down here. We want them to come out. Ninety percent of the businesses are open, you know? Even if you guys aren't coming here, come out, hang out, spend your money please. These businesses need it," said Jared Rice, manager of Pizzalley's Restaurant. 

Pizzalley's reopened Monday, but employees said business has been slow.

Rice said things finally started picking up Friday, but they're only seeing about half the number of customers they normally would. 

"I really thought there would be more places closed. We're here for a wedding and I wasn't sure the wedding was going to go on either," said Pam Martin, who is visiting from Gainesville. 

Martin and her husband said they could hardly believe the progress that has been made in the last week since Hurricane Matthew.

"It's amazing that there's this many places open. And they've done so much recovery in such a short period of time," Martin said.

While the recovery process has moved quickly for some, others still have a long road ahead. 

Plywood and sandbags were a common sight Friday night along the downtown streets that saw catastrophic flooding from Matthew's storm surge. 

"We're OK. Sadly, there's some businesses that aren't open and we hope they all get open as quick as they can," Rice said. "But for us, we're open and a lot of businesses are. We want people to know that."

Rice said they know it may take some time for things to get back to normal, but they're anxiously waiting in hopes customers will begin making their way back.