MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. — As red tide continues to plague many of Pinellas County beaches, local businesses are dealing with much more than a nasty smell: tourism is down.
Sip & Scoop, an ice cream café on John's Pass, opened just a week ago. Employees at the restaurant said because of red tide, they didn't have the sales they hoped for their first week in business.
"It's way low — customers are way low," said Eric Ellman, a cook at the café. "We were opened a few hours before we even had one customer. So you'd step out these doors and smell it."
Ellman said hours will pass before a single customer comes through Sip & Scoop. He points to red tide, with tourists not wanting to spend time outside with the smell of dead fish.
While conditions have improved drastically over the last week, Ellman said it was nearly unbearable one week ago.
"It was like walking into a dead fish factory," he said. "You've got to hold your nose, it was really bad."
Sip & Scoop is located roughly one block from the gulf. There is an outdoor patio area right next to the cafe's entrance. Ellman said the tables at the patio remain empty.
"Very rarely," are people outside, Ellman said. "One or two tables the whole day."
For many of the vacationers that come through, Ellman said many of them aren't aware of what red tide is but find out shortly after arriving.
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