Bridge Loan Helps St. Augustine-Based Restaurant Recover From Hurricane Damage Once Again

Disaster is a team effort. Read this story about partners working together to help Florida’s small businesses recover from Hurricane Irma.

Viola’s Pizza Pasta & Seafood is a family-owned restaurant specializing in New York-style pizza, fresh seafood, and authentic, made-from-scratch Italian food.

In September 2017, the restaurant sustained physical and economic injury from Hurricane Irma. Unfortunately, Viola’s is no stranger to the bridge loan program. In October 2016, the restaurant lost nearly everything in their restaurant due to Hurricane Matthew. Not only did they lose ovens, coolers, the bar, and office furniture, the Viola’s also had 25 employees and their families who depended on Viola’s for paychecks. With help from the Florida SBDC at the University of North Florida (UNF), the Viola’s secured a bridge loan within days to pay salaries and bills and begin purchasing new equipment.

Seeking assistance after Hurricane Irma, owners Andy and Helen Viola turned to the Florida SBDC at UNF, once again, for help securing another Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan. When asked about their experience with the storm and the assistance received, they recalled:

What type of damage occurred?

Water got underneath our dining room and our floors buckled. With no power for seven days, we also lost our entire food inventory.

How will the Emergency Bridge Loan help?

With help from Marge Cirillo, certified professional business consultant and disaster recovery specialist for the Florida SBDC at UNF, the Viola’s were able to secure a bridge loan to replace their floor, order new food inventory, and retain their employees.

How helpful was the Florida SBDC at UNF?

As soon as Irma hit, we called Marge with the Florida SBDC at UNF. The process was seamless.

About the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

Administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in collaboration with the Florida SBDC Network, and supported by Florida First Capital Finance Corporation (FFCFC), the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan is a short-term, interest-free working capital loan intended to help small businesses “bridge the gap” between the time of a declared disaster and when the business has secured long-term recovery resources, such as insurance proceeds or federal disaster assistance. Governor Rick Scott activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program on Thursday, September 14 and the first loan was distributed the following Monday. Eligible businesses with two to 100 employees may apply for loans up to $50,000 for 90 or 180-day terms.

As a principal responder in the state’s Emergency Support Function for Business, Industry, and Economic Stabilization, the Florida SBDC Network supports disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation through its Business Continuation Services. As part of its service offering, Florida SBDC professionally certified consultants and disaster specialists are available to provide confidential, no-cost consulting to help affected businesses prepare disaster loan applications and with other post-disaster challenges.

Mike Myhre, CEO of the Florida SBDC Network, presents the Viola's with a check for their Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan following Hurricane Irma

"As soon as Irma hit, we called Marge with the Florida SBDC at UNF. The process was seamless."

- Andy and Helen Viola, owners - Viola's Pizza Pasta & Seafood

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