Survey: 26% of SWFL business owners believe they may have to close permanently

A study looking into how the coronavirus impacted Southwest Florida’s economy shows that 26 percent of business owners believe they may have to close permanently.

Yuri and Jasmine Fedoriv owns Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls in downtown Fort Myers. They’re among millions of business owners trying to stay afloat across the country.

Their restaurant hadn’t been open long before the coronavirus pandemic forced them to close.

“We were really busy and when this happened, we did lose probably almost 75 to 80 percent of our customers,” said Jasmine Fedoriv.

“We were not really able to get any loans or anything like that. But because of local support, we will be OK because they’ve been coming in and supporting us during all this time,” said Yuri Fedoriv.

Other businesses may not fare as well, according to an economic impact survey by Florida Gulf Coast University. It shows that 26 percent of nearly 500 Southwest Florida businesses believe they’ll be forced to close permanently.

“It would be devastating. I don’t think that’s going to happen by any means but it reflects the level of concern,” said Dr. Christopher Westley, FGCU dean of business.

Westley said the survey results show business owners aren’t looking optimistically to the future.

“A lot of small businesses are not going to survive, but I think this area has enough of an appeal that new investment will come down.”

The Fedorivs are holding their breath for what comes next.

“It probably will affect us as well, but maybe in a different way,” Jasmine said.

“Hopefully it’s just slowly everything opens up and this virus is not going to come back,” Yuri said.

Westley said the lockdown on business was so damaging that he hopes state and health leaders talk about whether that’s the right strategy in the event that there is a second wave of COVID-19.

Reporter:Taylor Petras
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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