PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) —The Dog House on Pensacola Beach has closed its doors for good after a drop in beach traffic forced it to shut down.
Dog House Deli owner Nathan Holler said Wednesday the closure of the Pensacola Bay Bridge, which was damaged by Skanska construction barges during Hurricane Sally, had a major impact on his decision to close the restaurant.
“It was actually a pretty good year for us leading up to the closure of the bridge. That closure of the bridge really nearly cut off half our customer base,” Holler said. “We poured our hearts into that little store, so having to look at this and make the business decision to close was very, very difficult.”
Holler cites drive times from Pensacola — once a 15 minute drive to the beach turning into at least a 45 minute drive — as the reason fewer customers made their way into the restaurant in the last four and a half months.
The Dog House Deli location on Pensacola Beach had been open for nearly 12 years.
“It’s a sad day to have to close that store,” he said.
While many businesses on the beach are struggling, those employees who find themselves with customers are grateful they are there. At Native Cafe Wednesday, about a dozen customers sat in the restaurant eating.
“We have some really loyal regular customers that come out,” manager Arin Brown said. “They have really kept us going this winter. I don’t know what we would do without our customers supporting us through this.”
At the Islander Bar, bartender Tara Cox stood behind the bar, prepping and waiting for customers to arrive.
“We’re doing great, actually. We have a really supportive beach community,” Cox said. “There have been fewer customers, but I think as a community, they want to contribute to their businesses.”
Officials maintain the bridge should be reopened sometime in March. Work continues to fix many believe is a mess construction contractor Skanska left behind. Holler plans to sue Skanska for alleged negligence.
“Unfortunately, it’s not their loss,” Holler said. “It’s the loss of this community and small businesses like us. So, that’s infuriating.”
Holler said he’s grateful for the customers supporting Dog House Deli’s downtown Pensacola location at this time.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the support of the community,” he said. “We wanted to thank everybody for that.”
Skanska representatives have said repeatedly since the barges crashed into the bridge in September that the company made all appropriate actions and precautions based on information they had before the storm.