The disappearance of almost 800 parking spaces from Hollywood Beach might be a death sentence for some business owners, who say they can't survive the 30 months until Margaritaville is completed and some of that lost parking returns.
"People are going to come and turn and turn and turn for an hour and say there's no parking and leave," said Hasan Kochan, owner of Istanbul Restaurant, a Turkish eatery on the Broadwalk.
Last month developer Lon Tabatchnick, backed by hotel giant Starwood Capital, took control of the five-acre site where the 350-room resort will stand. Work was supposed to kick off in March, but hurdles in raising the required $80 million and permitting forced at least two construction delays. Construction crews started revving up more than a month ago, and the official groundbreaking will finally happen this Thursday.
The beginning of work at the beachfront site has meant the closure of the Johnson Street garage in early July, along with an adjacent lot and the disappearance of nearly a third of the beach's about 2,100 public parking spots.
Kochan said in the first days since the garage closed even his employees are having trouble finding a place to stash their car for the day.
"By 9 a.m. every place is jammed because people are rushed to get to the beach," he said.
When it's finished, the resort will have more than 1,000 parking spots, with 600 or so reserved for the public. Now businesses and restaurants are preparing for the more than two years until construction is complete, but are already feeling the effects.
"Over a month there's been a 60 percent to 70 percent drop in business," said Manoucher "Ali" Shaditalab.
He said he brought up the parking concerns to city officials in a June 28 meetings who brushed off the concerns saying "you'll be enjoying the benefits of Margaritaville once it's here."
"I've spoke with the minimarket beside me and he says he can't sustain more than two months," he added.
Not everyone is as pessimistic. Bob Ferro, owner of Nick's Bar & Grille is knocking down the stone-covered beach dive to make way for a three story restaurant and bar he hopes will draw in some of the new tourists who make their way to Buffett land to get lost in beer and rum.
"It's going to make everybody a lot of money," he said, "but it's going to be a big hassle until it's built.
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