One of the golf carts used to transport customers to Turtle Shack Café because of road closures. Photo is courtesy of Turtle Shack Café.

After Hurricane, Flagler County Businesses Brainstorm Solutions To Closed Beaches And Roads

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Crew working on cleaning up Vilano beach with wood from the stairs of public access bridges. Photo Courtesy of Alaina Porcellini
A cleanup crew works on Vilano beach with wood from the stairs of public access bridges. Photo courtesy of Alaina Porcellini.

With beaches and roads closed, Flagler County business are still bouncing back from Hurricane Matthew.

Flagler County Public Information Officer Julie Murphy said there’s no clear date for when the beaches will open again, as crews are still shoring up dune walkovers.

Remnants of a dune walkover at Vilano Beach after Hurricane Matthew. Photo courtesy of Alaina Porcellini.
Remnants of a public access bridge lie at Vilano Beach after Hurricane Matthew. Photo courtesy of Alaina Porcellini.

The walkovers, stairs that go over dunes to get to the beach, are sensitive and can pose a threat to people walking over them to get to beaches.

“Out of a tough time comes creativity,” said Gretchen Smith, government affairs director of Flagler County Chamber Of Commerce.

Over the past week and a half, the chamber of commerce has been contacting its member businesses to see how they’re holding up after Hurricane Matthew devastated the area, Smith said, adding most were back to business within a few days.

The chamber of commerce is encouraging everyone to buy local, she said.

“We want to keep the money in our community because that will strengthen our business in the long run,” Smith said.

She said the disaster has really brought the community together, and that’s what’s going to make it rebound faster.

One Flagler Beach restaurant is making the best out of their part of main road, Florida State Road A1A, being closed down.

Turtle Shack Café is offering shuttle rides with a golf cart for guests because the road is still closed, she said.

“It is heartening to see these businesses finding ways to stay open,” Smith said.

The owner of Turtle Shack Café, Patrick Lewis, came up with the idea of using a golf cart after they discovered the road was washed out.

The restaurant’s damage from Hurricane Matthew was minimal, Lewis said.

“Our Turtle Shack sign blew down, and we lost a gutter on the side,” he said. “Other than that, (there was) minor water damage on our patio, which we kind of expected,” he said.

The golf cart being used to shuttle customers to and from their cars belongs to a long-time customer of the restaurant.

“One of our regulars, who comes in all the time, he actually has this six-person golf cart that he was letting us use,” Lewis said.

When they were brainstorming about how to get customers to the restaurant, they knew a lot of their customers already had golf carts and would be willing to help them out.

“It kind of worked out for us,” he said.

On average, they give five to 10 golf cart rides at lunchtime. For dinnertime, almost all of the tables use the golf cart service, so they give about 40-50 golf cart rides a night.

Some people call the restaurant when they are parking their car to ask for a ride.

“During our busy hours, we have one of the available employees sitting in the golf cart down at the end of the road, going back and fourth, dropping people off at their cars and bringing people to the restaurant when they get here,” he said.

The road the restaurant is located on is expected to be open within a week.

“In my opinion, I’m thinking that’s the best case scenario – that would be awesome if it’s a week,” Lewis said.

About Lauren Rowland

Lauren is a reporter for WUFT News. She can be reached at news@wuft.org or 352-392-6397.

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