Huntington Beach

Oil spill is slowing business

CLEANUP crews work the sand in Huntington Beach after the oil spill from a ruptured pipeline (Orange County Tribune photos by Zia Zografos).

Downtown is affected by the impact of disaster

By Zia Zografos 

Businesses in downtown Huntington Beach are experiencing a slow down in light of the oil spill that poured onto the beaches this past Saturday.

Shop owners reported that the beach closures caused by the spill, as well as the cancelation of the highly anticipated Pacific Airshow, caused a scattering of confused tourists who made trips out to Surf City to see the show and go to the beach. Since Sunday, business has been rather slow.

George Freeman, an employee from Ray’s Rentals in downtown, echoed this sentiment.

BEACH CLOSURE sign in the wake of petroleum spill in Huntington Beach.

“Since the day of the air show when they found out the oil was in there, we had customers flooding all through the streets,” said Freeman. “We had a lot of customers who were upset from driving from far away to come see the airshow and then it was cancelled. After that, business started to slow down.”

There were approximately 1.5 million people on the beaches waiting for the air show when notifications of the oil spill first occurred, according to a presentation by city manager, Oliver Chi, at the Oct. 4 special council meeting to discuss the emergency.

The council voted 5-0 with the absence of councilmembers Erik Peterson and Mike Posey to amend the resolution declaring the oil spill a local emergency.

“We know folks have experienced economic damage from this particular event,” said Chi. “We’ve heard everything from hotels having reservations being cancelled, to businesses being impacted from what they were hoping was going to be an incredibly busy Sunday with the airshow.” There is currently a hotline set up by the city for those who have been impacted.

Quintin Matheny, a cashier at Sock Harbour, noted that business typically slows during Fall anyway, but observed that the beach closure actually attracted tourists to the shops for a short while.

“It seems like actually more people are less drawn to the beaches and are looking for a place to hangout. So they’re coming into the shops,” said Matheny.  “I will admit, they aren’t really buying anything. They’re just walking around. It’s like, you planned to go to the beach today and all you can do is just walk around and not go on the actual sand.”

Although Huntington Beach’s downtown may be descending into a naturally occurring slower season, several business operators felt that the oil spill has put an even further damper on sales. Kammy Major, a server at Wet Dog Tavern, said, “It’s been a lot slower. It’s been even slower than last year. From what myself and a lot of other people understand, the sales are down from last year here too. The tourists have not been here as much as we had thought either. I think everyone is tired,” said Major.

Nick Lamberdini from Mangiano Gelato Coffee stated that he felt no matter what the city decides to do, there will be imminent backlash, but he hopes that they can contain the damage.

“I’ve seen some sad customers because they’re local. I’m not from here, but being here and working for this business, I’m sad as well because of what happened,” said Lamberdini.

The damage to marine life is another facet that restaurants are grappling with. At the Oct. 5 council meeting, Mayor Kim Carr urged the public not to fish until further notice due to health risks and contamination from the toxic spill on marine animals. It is currently lobster season, and many come out to the pier for this reason.

Abdo Coach, the owner of Coach’s Mediterranean Grill and Bar, said this has been affecting him and other restaurants.

“[Businesses] prepared all this stuff because we were expecting more people from the air show, and then it didn’t happen,” said Coach. “We’re also not happy because it killed a lot of fish too…I think everyone just freaked out. Since we’re approaching the winter, I think it is going to get slower anyway, but the oil spill made it even more.”

The city manager stated that the city will be needing volunteers in the future for the next phase of clean-up. Those interested can sign up with Surf Rider.



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