Tampa Bay area restaurants impacted by red tide starting new initiative to get people to the tables

ANNA MARIA ISLAND, Fla. — The impact of red tide on Anna Maria Island is considered by many to be just as bad as getting hit by a major hurricane.  

Since the water went from clear to the murky red, restaurant owners are reporting a decline in sales, upwards of 70 percent. Many local business leaders say social media is fueling a frenzy online that is lumping the environmental catastrophe with all beaches in the area.

“People are scared, and they are seeing things, and they are seeing pictures that don’t relate to us there is not a whale shark on the beach right here, there’s not a dolphin,” Robert Baugh the COO of The Beach House restaurant on Bradenton Beach said.  

“I’m disgusted with what’s going on. I don’t know if it’s red tide or Lake Okeechobee. But, at the end of the day, we are still open, and it’s not always impacting us,” Baugh said. 

Staff at restaurants said they are answering questions daily about whether their fish is safe to eat. They all have a straightforward answer, "yes."

“We do not catch dead fish and serve them,” Bob Slicker the GM at Swordfish Grill in Cortez said. “All our fish is caught way deep out on the gulf or somewhere else. Nobody is serving you fish that is floating on top of the water. We’ve been doing this for four and five generations we want to keep doing this for four and five generations more we will never serve bad food.”

Restaurant owners and the community are banding together and plan to visit every restaurant on the island.

“We are going to keep going until we feel like we’ve exhausted it,” Robert Baugh the  COO of the Beach House Restaurant said.

Thursday night patrons can go to Swordfish Grill in Cortez and enjoy deals on food. The following day they will be at the Anna Maria Oyster House.  At the very end, they plan on having a huge meal on the beach for people to attend.

“We are open,” Baugh said. “Let people come out and see what it’s like and make your own decision.”

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