I-Drive businesses continue to struggle as empty storefronts grow

I-Drive businesses continue to struggle as empty storefronts grow


International Drive has been the heartbeat of local tourism for more than 40 years.However, the coronavirus pandemic is draining the life out of the once-vibrant business community.The days of barely being able to drive on International Drive are over, at least for now. Tourist traffic is sparse.Chris Burgos is a trucker and vacationer who’s been to I-Drive before and seen it buzzing with business. Now, he’s seeing the sting of the economic downturn.“It’s pretty much empty. Hardly anything is open,” Burgos said. “I’m just hoping this gets over with soon, so that we can have a good time (again) and enjoy time out here because we love Florida.”The number of empty stores, offices and attractions is growing.“We’re operating at roughly 20-30% capacity,” Nikhil Nandu said.Nandu’s family owns Benzer Enterprises. It has nine stores and other businesses, including a mini-golf attraction, that were open with help from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.The reopening of major theme parks is helping a bit, and the holiday delivered a minor boost, but with airport passenger traffic down 75%, the drive-up traffic from locals just won’t be enough.“Not so great! I think it’s going to be time but little bits of hope here and there, like Labor Day weekend was good,” Nandu said.Also delivering hope is continued construction. Bronze Kingdom is being built inside the old Whirly Dome and a hotel is under construction on the north end of I-Drive near Kirkman Road.

International Drive has been the heartbeat of local tourism for more than 40 years.

However, the coronavirus pandemic is draining the life out of the once-vibrant business community.

The days of barely being able to drive on International Drive are over, at least for now. Tourist traffic is sparse.

Chris Burgos is a trucker and vacationer who’s been to I-Drive before and seen it buzzing with business. Now, he’s seeing the sting of the economic downturn.

“It’s pretty much empty. Hardly anything is open,” Burgos said. “I’m just hoping this gets over with soon, so that we can have a good time (again) and enjoy time out here because we love Florida.”

The number of empty stores, offices and attractions is growing.

“We’re operating at roughly 20-30% capacity,” Nikhil Nandu said.

Nandu’s family owns Benzer Enterprises. It has nine stores and other businesses, including a mini-golf attraction, that were open with help from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

The reopening of major theme parks is helping a bit, and the holiday delivered a minor boost, but with airport passenger traffic down 75%, the drive-up traffic from locals just won’t be enough.

“Not so great! I think it’s going to be time but little bits of hope here and there, like Labor Day weekend was good,” Nandu said.

Also delivering hope is continued construction. Bronze Kingdom is being built inside the old Whirly Dome and a hotel is under construction on the north end of I-Drive near Kirkman Road.



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