‘It’s really taxing’: South Florida business owners, residents struggle under record-breaking heat

On a sunny Saturday afternoon on the Hollywood Broadwalk, Rasheeda O’Neal sat on the ledge by the beach with an umbrella over her head, waiting for her flight home.

“It’s burning up,” she said.

O’Neal had come to South Florida from Michigan for a cruise, arriving last Saturday when it was a balmy 93 degrees.

“I was expecting it to be hot,” she said, “but it’s a different type.”

A record-breaking heat wave continues to envelop South Florida this week, with the heat index, or feels-like temperatures, between 105 and 110 degrees. The heat has been slowing business more than usual, scaring away tourists while locals grit their teeth and continue with their daily routines. Many say they’ve never experienced heat like this before, especially so early in the summer. And there’s little end in sight: meteorologists say the temperatures should remain throughout the next week.

From the Hollywood Broadwalk to Deerfield Beach, local businesses have struggled, in more ways than one, under the heat. Restaurants are seeing fewer customers, while boutiques have experienced an uptick in visitors trying to cool off, but not actually buy anything because it’s too hot to try on clothes. Meanwhile, the employees themselves are suffering.

At Yogurt Your Way on the Hollywood Broadwalk, the high temperatures have caused the frozen yogurt machine to shut down for hours every day, according to Isabella Donnino, one of the employees. The machine relies on air-conditioning to stay cool.

“We’re losing hours a day of serving food,” she said, adding that it “deters customers” when the machine breaks down because the shop can’t offer certain flavors.

Server Joseph Ross brings customers ice-cold water at Ocean Alley Restaurant and Beach Bar, Sunday, July 16, 2023 in Hollywood. (John McCall/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Server Joseph Ross brings customers ice-cold water at Ocean Alley Restaurant and Beach Bar on Sunday n Hollywood. (John McCall/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Meanwhile, at the nearby open-air bar and restaurant Ocean Alley, general manager Claudio Fernandez, 53, said the only room with air-conditioning is his office.

The servers work six-hour shifts, but Fernandez said that this year, “by the time they’re done, with the heat exhaustion, it’s like 12 hours.”

Never before in his 13 years has he had to change clothes multiple times in a work day because of sweat. This year, he’s started handing out cold bottles of water to the staff.

The tourists arriving in South Florida this summer “have no clue what they’re walking into,” Fernandez said. He’s noticed fewer tourists from elsewhere in the state and the northeast, but more from states like Ohio and Iowa.

“This is clearly the hottest summer I’ve ever had here and it’s not even close,” added Joseph Ross, one of the restaurant’s servers and a longtime Hollywood Beach resident.

“We’re kind of hoping this will end soon,” Fernandez said. “It’s really taxing. It really is.”

The heat hasn’t only taken a toll on the Broadwalk. At The Deerfield Beach Cafe, where customers typically sit outside to gaze at the ocean in the cooler months, nearly all the outdoor tables were empty.

“In season, people fight to get these tables,” Bill DeCarlo, the restaurant’s manager, said.

He has noticed a “bit of a direct” affect when it comes to business. In his 40 years as a South Florida resident, he added, “this feels like the hottest summer I’ve experienced, especially this early in the year.”

Other locals shared the sentiment.

“This is what we’re not supposed to be expecting until August,” Ross said, describing the ocean as a “sauna.”

For some, the recent heat wave has served as a reminder of climate change. Scientists say local humid heat is one of the biggest hazards of global warming. Meanwhile, hotter ocean temperatures give rise to more storms and hurricanes.

Eileen Bello stepped onto the Broadwalk with her two grandkids Saturday, a bucket and tongs in her hand. The longtime Hollywood resident said she walks along the beach three miles every day to pick up trash. Recently, she’s had to wake up earlier and leave sooner to avoid the hottest parts of the day.

Bello would normally take a dip to cool off, but lately, even the ocean has provided little relief.

“I don’t like to bathe anymore because of the heat,” she said.

She recalled how the beach has receded since last summer’s storms, when she watched the streets near the Broadwalk fill up with water.

“The climate is changing,” she said, “and it’s changing really fast.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.