Although no oil from BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill reached the shores of St. Pete Beach, Florida, a lot of bad press and cancelled reservations did. Now the city is taking legal action against the oil giant in an attempt to recover lost revenues officials say were the result when millions of gallons of oil flooded the Gulf. The spill generated fear and uncertainty about where the oil slick would go and prompted visitors from all over to vacation somewhere else.
Other municipalities in Florida and the other Gulf states have sued BP for lost tourism revenues, but St. Pete Beach is the first in the Tampa Bay area to seek damages in the wake of the massive oil spill, the biggest ever in U.S. history.
Demonstrating some of the financial hardship the oil spill caused residents and businesses of St. Pete Beach, Tampa’s Bay News 9 spoke with the historic Hurricane Restaurant, a family-run business that first opened its doors to St. Pete Beach visitors and locals in 1977. Restaurant spokesman Rick Falkenstein told Bay News 9 that when the BP spill erupted, “The bottom just dropped and each week it got worse, it got worse, it got worse.” To stay afloat, the family had to let employees go, cut salaries for those remaining, and do everything they could to avoid shutting down.
“We used every savings fund, every maintenance fund, everything that we had to keep our doors open,” Mr. Falkenstein told Bay News 9.
One attorney representing the Hurricane Restaurant, St. Pete Beach, and other businesses and municipalities in claims against BP told Bay News 9 that “time just stood still” on St. Pete Beach as people from all over the country, worried about the path the spill would take or thinking St. Pete had been hit by the oil, canceled their plans to visit.
In May 2010, BP gave the state of Florida $25 million to battle negative publicity caused by the giant oil spill, which had many scientists worried it could spread to the Keys and up the Atlantic coast via the Gulf’s loop current. Despite the ramped-up advertising efforts, however, many municipalities and businesses state-wide suffered devastating losses.
A recent settlement agreement with BP means any business in any part of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, or the west coast of Florida (all the way to Key West) can qualify for compensation. Generally speaking, any private business in one of the areas mentioned that had an aggregate revenue decrease of 15 percent or more over a consecutive three-month time period between May and December 2010 and had at least a 10 percent aggregate revenue increase for the same three months in 2011 is entitled to compensation.
This is true even if they do not think their loss came from the oil spill. This includes any business, not just seafood or tourism, and it applies to every part of the states or areas mentioned above, no matter how far from the Gulf.