San Marco business owners not taking 2018 hurricane season lightly

Floodwaters after Hurricane Irma forced many restaurants, shops to close

By Erik Avanier - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Many shops and restaurants in Jacksonville's historic San Marco district were forced to close, some temporarily and others permanently, after flooding caused by Hurricane Irma last year.

That's why businesses owners have already started preparing for this year's hurricane season, fully aware of the potential financial impact from a storm. 

No one will ever forget certain areas of San Marco being under several feet of floodwater following Irma, especially Seafood Island Bar and Grille owner Charley Akel. His restaurant was under construction when Irma hit in September. 

“We hope we don’t ever see anything like that during construction again," Akel told News4Jax on Thursday. 

Fortunately, Irma only slowed down construction. But now that Seafood Island Bar and Grille is open, Akel said, he’s not taking the 2018 hurricane season lightly since he and his family have invested a lot of money into opening the restaurant.  

“We would not be able to afford to keep our doors closed for a period of time like some of these places," Akel said.

European Street Cafe was one of those place. Damage caused by floodwaters forced the San Marco Boulevard restaurant to close for several months. 

“We’ve put in place certain things that will protect us," restaurant manager Pamela Campbell said. "A little bit of flooding, we’re good. But if it goes over the windows again, we might have a little bit of an issue.”

Though European Street Cafe reopened in February, other businesses have not been able to. Some did reopen, but ultimately closed for good because they couldn’t fully recover, which brings up a harsh reality. 

“We’re here today and you never know what can happen tomorrow," Akel said.

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