TAMPA — Nearly a year later, Irma is still leaving its mark. A national report shows 25% of small businesses do not recover after disaster.
Packing up La Yuma restaurant in Lutz is a gut-wrenching task.
Ashley Clevenger, who owns the business with his wife said it was their dream.
"It's very hard to close. I can't explain it," said Clevenger.
The chef, Jose Ramirez, feels just as strongly about it.
"We worked so hard for this place," said Ramriez.
The restaurant is closing after 18 months despite a strong start.
"Every day, we had about 73-75 % new customer bases and getting the word out," said Clevenger.
"We got everything right. Recipes, employees, training," said Ramirez.
But La Yuma could not withstand Irma's punch. Weeks of no business left them no choice but to shut their doors.
"We just cannot recover," said Clevenger.
Federal data showed 25% of businesses do not bounce back after disasters even though the government offers aid.
"It's not free help, it's additional loans you can get," said Clevenger.
The loans are low interest. Action News found a national program approved $1.4 billion to some 23,000 businesses.
But the owners of La Yuma also have another restaurant in Key West they are trying to rebuild.
"We did not want to go down that additional financing," said Clevenger. We are just devastated to close our doors."
And now, all their 22 employees are also looking for a job.
"We are still family but we have to separate," said Ramirez.