Taquiza operations manager Christine Martinez works about a half-mile from the site of the Champlain Towers disaster, which has officially entered into recovery mode
"One of our servers told us that a regular customer came in without his wife. When he asked about her, he learned that she was in the tower when it came down," Martinez tells New Times
, adding that some of her regulars have stopped coming and she can only hope they're safe. "It's too close to home. This hurts."
The Taquiza team has delivered tacos to the site to feed first responders and they've found that it's nearly impossible to access Surfside. "I had to drive through, and it's very blocked off," says Martinez. "You can't get past 80th Street without identification."
Martinez says she's seen a marked dropoff in business at the popular taco restaurant run by chef Steve Santana. "Even places 15 blocks away are getting affected," she says. "And we can't rely on Uber Eats, because you need a driver in the area to accept the order."
Martinez says businesses closer to the condo collapse are faring even worse. Instead of feeding paying customers, Josh Marcus, who owns Josh's Deli, has been feeding first responders for free.
Martinez says he told her he might have to take out a personal loan.
"That shouldn't have to happen," she says. "Josh is a great dude, but who is going to go to Surfside right now?"
The restaurant manager started a GoFundMe
for Marcus in an attempt to help him recoup some of the earnings he lost. In a single day, it eclipsed its $5,000 goal.
There is some aid for business owners in Surfside (and beyond). The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has set up a field operation to take applications for loans for businesses affected by the Surfside tragedy.
Terrell Perry, public-affairs specialist and disaster lead for the SBA, tells New Times
that businesses can apply for low-interest loans for up to $2 million if they were affected by physical or economic injury. That includes restaurants and other businesses in Surfside, as well as businesses throughout Miami-Dade, Broward, and Collier counties that have suffered direct economic impact because of the Surfside disaster.
Perry explains that to qualify for an SBA loan, a business doesn't necessarily have to be in Surfside to have suffered a loss, "The reason why we include the other counties is if, for instance, a supplier is located in Collier and supplies three businesses that were in Surfside. Their revenue has now decreased and that would be an economic injury to the Collier business."
The loans can be repaid over 30 years and the first payment isn't due for 18 months.
The deadline to apply for the business loans is August 30 for physical property damage/loss and March 22, 2022, for economic injury. The deadline is extended for economic injury, Perry explains, because sometimes it takes months for a business owner to realize the magnitude of the damage caused by the disaster.
Homeowners and renters who were displaced because of the Champlain Towers collapse can also apply for SBA loans for up to $200,000 for physical damage and $40,000 for personal property. These loans are meant to cover uninsured losses like cars and property not covered by insurance.
Perry encourages business owners to fill out an application online, on the phone, or in person at the field office in Surfside, which will operate until further notice.
The Surfside Business Recovery Center is located at Geneva Tailor (9484 Harding Ave., Surfside) and is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. SBA loan applications can also be filled out online at sba.gov/disaster
or over the phone at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY 1-800-877-8339).
Miami-Dade County has set up its own disaster-loan program for families affected by the disaster. That program is headquartered at the Sea View Hotel (9909 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour) and is open daily from noon to 5 p.m.
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott has compiled a list of additional resources
on the local, state, and federal level, including information for friends and families who wish to register for alerts regarding the status of their loved ones.