The number of jobs lost in the Lower Keys post-Hurricane Irma is still not available, but a snapshot of the businesses where she made landfall Sept. 10 is — and it’s not pretty.
According to numbers from the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, at least 18 businesses are still in the category of damaged or destroyed, most of which are on Big Pine Key and some of which are closed for good.
The majority of cottages at Little Palm Island Resort and Spa were destroyed, said chamber office manager Kathy Boyce. It’ll be at least a year before the resort three miles off Little Torch Key opens again. How many employees are out of a job is unknown.
The Dolphin Marina and Cottages on Little Torch Key will be closed for at least a year as well after the hurricane destroyed its dock master’s office, fuel dock, cottages and office.
Three Lower Keys Shell gas stations sustained severe damage in the storm. To date, the one on Summerland Key is the only one open. At the Old Wooden Bridge Guest Cottages and Marina on Big Pine Key, most of the cottages were damaged, while the office and marina dock master office were destroyed.
“They were going to remodel before storm but now they will be doing it for sure now,” Boyce said.
It will be months before Seacamp Association on Big Pine Key reopens after it was destroyed. The Big Pine Key building housing A Caribbean Dream Day Spa was wrecked in the storm but the spa owners are looking for a new place to set up shop.
Manley-Deboer Lumber Co. on Big Pine Key was destroyed and is closed for now along with Monroe Tire and Auto Service Center.
The Sugarloaf KOA campground had severe damage to its marina, bathhouses, pub and pool area, but will reopen around October, Boyce said.
The Circle K Gas station on Big Coppitt Key was damaged but the pumps are working and there is a temporary store in a trailer while the main building is worked on. Other Big Pine Key businesses where repairs are underway or will be soon include Sea Center Boat Storage, Napa Auto Parts, Deer Run B&B and the Sunshine Key RV Resort. Bahia Honda State Park is also still making repairs.
The Bistro 31 Restaurant on Big Pine Key has closed but work is being done on the building, Boyce said.
“I’m not sure if it will be Bistro 31 or another restaurant,” she said.
Summerland Dental on Summerland Key is also undergoing repairs but is closed at the moment.
Keys Cuisine, a food truck that operated on Big Pine Key, has closed for good, along with Lilyanna Charters, which ran on Little Palm Island. Its boat was destroyed.
After the storm, Monroe lost its hold on the lowest unemployment rate in the state and a jobless rate of 3.6 percent according to the state Department of Economic Opportunity. But in the November numbers it inched its way back, with a 3.2 percent jobless mark.
Florida’s unemployment rate held at 3.6 percent from October to November, according to numbers released in December by the state Department of Economic Opportunity. The state’s jobless rate is better than the national mark of 4.1 percent, which also remained unchanged in the month-to-month comparison.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219