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Local businesses take a hit from near miss

Photo: Hurricane Matthew drives the Indian River Lagoon up over the dock at the Riverside Cafe on the Vero Beach barrier island.

Vero Beach escaped disaster when Hurricane Matthew veered away slightly at the last minute, but businesses in town still took a hit in lost revenue and spoiled merchandise.

Evacuation of the island meant hotels had to clear out guests on Wednesday afternoon, losing several nights of income. However, they snapped back quickly.

The Holiday Inn Oceanside was the first major hotel to re-open on Friday, and by Sunday morning it had cable and wireless Internet up and running, and was advertising a full menu and drink specials at Mulligan’s Beach House next door.

By Saturday evening, most of Ocean Drive, including the historic Ocean Grill, was bustling with activity amid shuttered windows and doors as people flocked to the beach for a hot meal and a cold drink while nearly one-fifth of the county was still without power.

The Driftwood Inn has weathered its share of storms over its 100-plus years, and it came through Matthew with only minor damage to some siding and the loss of two beach access walkways. “We had everybody out by 3 p.m. Wednesday, we got power back between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. Saturday and reopened at 5 p.m. Saturday,” said Zach Zebrowski, who handles owner relations at the timeshare resort. He said the Inn had no major events booked during the storm downtime, but did suffer some lost reservations.

Costa D’Este had to cancel a wedding and several banquet events scheduled during the five nights they were closed. General Manager Chad Olson said he’s grateful the damage only required fixes to a pool pump and the air-conditioning system, and that all of his staff are safe and back to work. But being out of commission from Wednesday afternoon through Monday cost the resort upwards of $100,000.

The hotel is running a 35-percent-off deal on its website all this week to get guests back in the doors after Matthew, and also hosted a post-hurricane party Monday night, inviting locals to come out and take a poolside break from arduous cleanup efforts with a cool mojito.

“We loaded up all of our beach furniture onto a semi and shipped it over to the mainland, but when we get the beach chairs and cabanas back we will be filming a video showing everyone that the sun is shining here,” Olson said. “We want to get back in front of people to show them that everything is fine.”

Brian Durst, assistant manager of the Village Beach Market, said the store lost at least $11,000 worth of perishable food, including $8,500 in ice cream. “Everything else was saved. Fortunately we were able to get the other items loaded into the coolers and freezers,” he said. “The building itself had no damage.”

The market got power back around 3 p.m. Saturday and re-opened Sunday, with delivery trucks piled three deep in the parking lot Monday morning to replenish supplies.
CVS Pharmacy re-opened on Sunday, as did 7-11, but both stores lost all their perishable foods and were waiting with empty cases for deliveries. CVS also had some roof damage, resulting in a serious leak and a cordoned-off area in one of the aisles on Sunday.