Downtown South businesses must make dollars out of senseless Pulse shooting

By : Nicole Dudenhoefer
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Orlando – About a month and a half after the Pulse nightclub shooting, Orlando is still tending to the emotional scars left behind by the tragedy. As the community tries to pick up the pieces, the financial struggles resulting from the June 12 massacre must also be battled.

While millions of dollars have been donated to numerous funds to help support the victims and their families, along with Pulse staff members who have been affected by the shooting, there is another group of people who may be in need of some financial relief as well: the businesses impacted by the Downtown South closure.

Although he had no specific plan of action, Senator Marco Rubio spoke July 19 during a press conference at Foreign Accents, a refurbished furniture store on South Orange Avenue, about the affected businesses surrounding Pulse potentially receiving aid from the OneOrlando fund, which will not begin disbursement until October 1.

“One of the issues my office has been working with is to where the assistance has been doled out and the role that small businesses will play in how that assistance is doled out, and my hope is that once we ensure that all of those directly affected are fully compensated, if there are funds available, that there be a method by which businesses, who faced closures and economic losses, may ultimately be part of it,” says Senator Marco Rubio.

No. 1 Celebrity Barbershop is one of the businesses still recovering from the nine-day forced closure of the Downtown South area resulting from the Pulse massacre.

“All the barbers lost salaries for the week and it probably set us back about a month,” says Carlos Sifuentes, manager of the store.

The shutdown not only cost the barbershop money, but staff members as well.

“In the process, we did lose two employees; they moved on because they didn’t know when we were going to reopen,” says Sifuentes.

Maliha Mukati, owner of Connect PCS Cellphone Repair, estimates her store lost $8,000-$9,000 during the closure. Although Mukati’s business has certainly taken a hit, her second store location in Kissimmee helped alleviate some of the financial pain she is facing.

“Nine days of not working here, it was definitely very tough. But I can also imagine all these other stores, if they didn’t have another, they probably don’t have other locations. They probably have just that one store, so it would have affected them in a very bad way,” Mukati says.

Even with the secondary income from Mukati’s other store, she is being careful about recovering her losses from her Orlando store location by only selling the current inventory she has.

“The beginning, when we first started opening after the shooting, a lot of people didn’t know that the streets were actually open, so we were pretty slow the first couple of days,and then it got busy afterwards. It’s picking up, but we still are trying to catch up,” says Mukati.

Fernando Patino, practice manager and veterinary technician at Kirkpatrick Veterinary Hospital, acknowledges that income around the time of the shutdown was significantly less than average, but he says sales have remained strong due to the solid clientele that the hospital has built over the years.

Patino also says that he believes the businesses surrounding the Pulse nightclub area should receive some sort of financial aid.

“Unfortunately, as much as we try to plan for any unforeseen activities, I know that it is impossible to plan for something like this. However, it would be nice if, not only the community, but government outlets would help, because a week, or a month of non-production could really kill a business, especially a small business,” says Patino.

However, Patino’s not interested in seeking out or accepting any sort of relief funds. Instead he is focused on his neighbors in need and says he would donate the money if he were given any.

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