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John Hendricks

MADEIRA BEACH — Madeira Beach businesses rely on the beaches and tourism to keep them alive. The coronavirus pandemic has robbed them of both. Beaches are closed to the public and tourists have left town. But that doesn’t mean the rent isn’t due for many of those businesses.

New Mayor John Hendricks knows that and said it’s time for the city to both help and set an example by providing relief to small businesses.

“There are a lot of rental properties in Madeira Beach for our residents and a lot of those people are in the service industry and a lot of them are out of work right now,” he said March 31 during a City Commission meeting. “And I’d like to see the city be a leader in giving the renters some relief, and I hope other landlords in Madeira Beach will do the same for their tenants.”

His fellow commissioners agreed and voted 5-0 to waive the next month’s rent to the three businesses that lease their properties from the city — Fantasy Planet, Snack Shack, and Saltwater Destination, a beach chair concession company.

Commissioner Doug Andrews, who is also a small business owner, said federal aid will be a great benefit to these businesses, but it will take time to collect, which is why he enthusiastically endorsed the amnesty program.

“If we save them on their rent, maybe they can toss a couple of bucks to their employees to be able to do that,” he said. “Being a leader and being out in front on this is a great idea.”

City Manager Bob Daniels said he hopes the program also encourages landlords of both commercial and residential properties to follow the city’s lead and give tenants a break.

“I think this is great,” he said. “It’s an opportunity that we can make a statement that we care, and I think in this age of despair, you have to get that message out.”

Despite the fact that the city is also taking a financial hit because of a decrease in parking revenue, Hendricks said it was the right thing to do.

“Yeah, it’s going to hurt a little bit, but everybody’s hurting right now,” he said. “We’re all into this together.”

Daniels said a boat owner at the marina has also sought relief from the city.

“I know times are hard and a lot of the individuals that are there living on their boat … are faced with the same situation,” he said.

Commissioners sympathized and agreed to allow liveaboard boat owners to request relief, but they would decide them on a case-by-case basis.

For the business owners, Andrews said commissioners moving forward should even consider a two-month waiver.

“And if you want to throw Doug’s 7-11 onto this list, I’d be happy to accept that,” he said to laughs.