Because of widely played video footage last week depicting flooding downtown during Tropical Storm Ian, Historic City News has learned that there are prospective visitors to St Augustine thinking twice about coming to town. Some have canceled reservations because they mistakenly believe everything is closed. As for the business community, damage varied on a case-by-case basis; however, there is no indication of widespread destruction.
Richard Goldman, chief executive officer of the St Johns County Visitors and Convention Bureau is saying that he and his staff spent the early part of Friday checking in with local businesses only to find generally manageable repairs needed. Even businesses that did suffer flooding damage have been able to bounce back quickly. Goldman believes that the longer-lasting, more significant damage from Tropical Storm Ian may be, simply put, to St Augustine’s reputation.
“We have to be sensitive to those folks who have actually incurred harm,” Goldman said in an interview published by Jacksonville Business Journal. “I haven’t spoken with enough owners to offer a blanket statement on the damage, but it is encouraging to learn that many popular hospitality businesses are reopening. What we can do is provide information on what’s open.”
Goldman says many businesses reopened Friday or are reopening today while others are saying that they plan to reopen later this weekend. Examples include Columbia Restaurant, the Casa Monica Resort, the Collector Luxury Inn, the Colonial Quarter attractions, the Alligator Farm and Zoological Park, Old Town Trolley and its attractions, the Old Jail, Old Drug Store, Potter’s Wax Museum, among others.
“Everything seemed to do pretty well. We’ve taken some serious flooding at the distillery before. We’re feeling fortunate,” Will Hensler, chief operating officer for St Augustine Distillery and City Gate Spirits said in the Business Journal report. “In that Riberia area, the water comes up high. I was watching our security cameras all night. The road itself was like a river, which we’ve seen before. But everything in the building seemed to hold well.”
Both businesses are expected to be open as usual today, Saturday, October 1st. Another nearby attraction, San Sebastian Winery, reportedly suffered minimal damage in Tropical Storm Ian and reopened yesterday. The winery sits right on the San Sebastian River.
“In Hurricane Matthew, we were about 6 inches away from the water coming inside,” San Sebastian Winery owner Charles Cox said. “And, in some respects, down on the bayfront, it looked worse. But, all seems good, and we’re back open for business.”
Cox was worried about flooding, especially after seeing a video of the bayfront Wednesday afternoon. He says he is “pleasantly surprised” that damage at the winery is minimal.
By late Friday morning, St Johns County had lifted all evacuation notices. That doesn’t mean every inch of encroaching water is gone, but the area, including downtown St Augustine, is getting back to normal. A lot of businesses not directly affected by flooding were back open yesterday. The county also announced the closure of all emergency shelters by 3:00 p.m. Friday. Residents were encouraged to “drive with caution” as some isolated areas may still have water causing roads to be impassable, according to a statement from county administration.
The City of St Augustine has waived all street parking fees as well as daily parking fees in the Historic Downtown Parking Facility on both Saturday and Sunday. Parking fees at all city-owned and managed lots, metered street parking, and the downtown parking garage located at 1 Cordova Street, will resume normal fees at 7:00 a.m. on Monday, October 3, 2022.