Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Help Me Howard: FPL Overpower
Do you have a dream? One South Florida couple did. They wanted to open a Greek restaurant, so they borrowed money and spent every dime they had. Now a Florida Power and Light construction project is ruining it. What can they do? What thousands of South Floridians do. Call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When Liza moved to Miami Beach, she loved it, just missing one thing.
Liza Meoli: "I realized I was the only Greek in the city, and I was missing my mom's food."
And so Liza and her husband Gigi fixed that opening Ouza's Mediterranean Bistro on Miami Beach.
Liza Meoli: "So I liked it because it was quiet and residential, and you get to know the customers over the years."
To fund their dream, they sold their house and borrowed money from their parents. It seemed to be worth it when customers poured in for the Mediterranean dishes.
Liza Meoli: "It was great, we loved it."
But now, as they walk out their front door on Bay Road, they face their nightmare.
Liza Meoli: "This just came out of nowhere. We were shocked, we felt defeated."
All the roads to their restaurant are blocked. The intersection at 18th and Bay Road has become a Florida Power and Light construction site where they are installing an underground power line. Potential customers only see this at all four roads leading to their restaurant.
Liza Meoli: "I would have liked for at least one street left open for us, but they blocked off all four streets."
Liza and Gigi say they had no warning it was about to happen.
Liza Meoli: "They are saying everyone was told. We were not told. We didn't find out till the signs went up, two days prior."
The impact of the power company's construction instantly overpowered them. Business is down 75 percent. They had to lay off half their employees and have no idea how they are going to pay their $30,000 a month rent till the project is finished this fall.
Liza Meoli: "This is our livelihood. This is all we have. This will ruin you. It will ruin us.
Liza is so distraught, she sent her kids to her parent's home, so they won't see her stress out and be embarrassed.
Liza Meoli: "It's humiliating. I have never had bad credit in my life, and I don't want to get that now."
She understands FPL has to install new power lines but doesn't understand why they have to crush small businesses to do it.
Liza Meoli: "This is a billion dollar project, and, I believe, when you have projects like that and some people are gonna get hurt in the meantime. You have got to think about them."
All she wants is some sort of help to survive this long enough to open her doors without this scaring customers away.
Liza Meoli: "What would anybody do in our position after you just invested your whole life savings, everything you have."
Howard Finkelstein: "Unless FPL takes too long or closes more roads than required and the project has all the correct approvals, which this one does, the law is on their side, and, unfortunately for Liza, the law does not set aside funds to compensate people who are hurt by progress."
When we spoke to FPL to try and get Ouzo's financial assistance we were turned down. A spokesman told me that "We feel sympathetic to their plight, but we don't feel responsible for a business suffering. In the long run we are creating a better business environment for the area." FPL also told us they sent letters to notify them of the construction, but Liza she says she never got them.
Finally, a little good news. Their landlord agreed to eliminate $7,000 of the rent, but they will still owe $23,000 a month. A lot to pay with customers blocked from getting their way.
Liza Meoli: "I'm angry, I'm angry. I don't know what else to be. I'm not sad. Right now it's just anger."
Well what else can Ouzo's do? Hope people ignore the construction and come in. The only thing that can save them now, customers. If you are hungry for some great Greek food, go see them and help save a young couple from disaster.
An overpowering problem overwhelming you? Here is some great good for thought. Contact us. We'll try to construct a solution because the law is not Greek to us.
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Ouzo's Mediterranean Bistro
1766 Bay Road
Miami Beach, FL