Businesses in downtown Fort Myers, already struggling to survive in many cases, are bracing for another hit: pay cuts and furloughs for government workers who patronize the businesses on lunch hours and after work.
"When the news came out Monday evening about the pay cuts and so forth, our business on Tuesday was just dead, horrible. Shockingly slow," said Bonnie Grunberg, co-owner of the Oasis Restaurant, long a favorite for city and county workers. "We had 4 or 5 tables for lunch at the height on Tuesday. That is slow, even for slow times. It scares me to death," she told WINK.
Lee County announced Monday that 2000 workers probably will be put on 10-days of un-paid furlough for the coming budget year. Fort Myers city leaders announced Monday evening, they may have to impose a 10-percent pay cut on employees, to help balance the budget. The dual bits of bad news, combined to crush business, and that may continue for awhile.
"I think it's going to hurt, but that is why we are running a hot dog cart," said Ron Kopko, of the Bar Association restaurant. "We have 2 dogs, chips and a drink for 3-dollars, 50-cents. They can afford that," Kopko said. "I am willing to do what I can to survive. We just have to hold on," said Kopko.
There aren't many retail shops downtown, and the owner of one, says he hopes that eclectic products will still draw government workers. "We have a lot of speciality items, so I believe they will come in. These are things you can't find other places, so hopefully we will be okay," said Raimond Aulen, owner of Main St. antiques and other businesses in the downtown area.
Local governments will not make final decisions on budgets for awhile, but already, the ripple effects are spreading.