Restaurants taking a hit because of tourism downturn

During the height of the busiest time of the tourism season on the Gulf Coast, restaurant owners are reporting their sales are down 25-30 percent.

Restaurant owners seeing decline in business

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - News of beach closures and water warnings have hurt businesses on the Coast. Restaurants that were once unaffected by an economic slump are now having a hard time paying the bills.

“Well, it’s hard to tell how much it’s been affected because we don’t keep our records that accurate, that up to date. But it’s affected us. There’s no question about it,” said Carl Lizana, owner of The White cap Restaurant in Gulfport.

Restaurants taking a hit to the bottom line because of tourism downturn
Restaurants taking a hit to the bottom line because of tourism downturn (Source: Photo WLOX)

Lizana doesn’t need to crunch the numbers to know, that a nearly empty restaurant is a serious problem.

“Well, we see mostly local people. There’s been a downturn in tourist business," Lizana said.

Lizana’s chief concern is the negative publicity of the conditions of the beaches and the Gulf waters. He believes that’s what’s causing the decrease in tourists visiting the Mississippi Gulf Coast this year.

“I think the only bad thing that’s happened to us is bad publicity,” Lizana said. “The algae, nothing is affecting us. The bad publicity every time you turn the TV on, or radio or anything else. They’re talking about everything that’s bad on the Coast,” said Lizana. “It’s got to be affecting us.”

Newer eateries with specialty menus have popped up along the Coast. Even though they have large followings, they aren’t doing much better.

Restaurants taking a hit to the bottom line because of tourism downturn
Restaurants taking a hit to the bottom line because of tourism downturn (Source: Photo WLOX)

“Our menu is 30 percent seafood," said Chantal Gollott at Le Cafe Beignet. “So, the impact on the seafood problem with the algae bloom and the things that are going on right now with the beaches being closed... it’s having a huge effect on tourism,” Gollott said.

Gollott fears this will have an impact lasting deeper than the summer season.

“It’s gonna take a long time, I believe, for the mindset of people whose destination for vacation is here. The mindset is going to still be there for some time. I think it’s going to have a little bit of a lasting impact on people," Gollott told WLOX.

But all kitchens on the Coast are not seeing a decrease in the number of plates going out.

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“Well, we’ve been fortunate that we are an indoor attraction. So, people that don’t have things to do, or can’t participate in the water activities come to Big Play," said Brandon Woolridge, owner of Big Play Entertainment. “So, so far we’ve not. I don’t think we’ve been hurt as much as some of the other restaurants,” said Woolridge.

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