Marilyn Schlossbach's oceanfront businesses are in an uphill battle to
Combating insurance company loopholes, lost income, unemployment claims and rebuilding costs, Schlossbach doesn't know how or when she will reopen her wrecked Asbury Park venues.
"The downside to this storm is the lack of light shined on the business community and how the business community affects everything going forward," said Schlossbach, who owns Langosta Lounge, Pop's Garage and Lightly Salted Surf Mercado. "People seem to have this thing in their head that we are only seasonal businesses and that is not the case."
Almost three months after Sandy struck, dozens of Shore-area business owners struggle to find the means to reopen and rebuild. Many reported tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue since the storm, with little or no help from insurance companies.
The storm also put a slew of employees out of work. Some full-time executive chefs at Langosta Lounge moved on to new jobs, Schlossbach said.
New Jersey businesses made about 36,000 commercial property damage claims related to Sandy, with $255.6 million in losses paid, said Marshall McKnight, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance. There were nearly 12,000 business interruption claims, with $53.4 million paid, he said.
The state has worked with businesses to investigate delays, denials and unsatisfactory settlements from insurance companies. "We have had some success in expediting matters," McKnight said.
Experts say the insurance claim process has stalled rebuilding plans across the state. Dealing with documents and client representatives can be a daunting task, said Ronald Cook, director of the Small Business Institute at Rider University.
"Insurance companies themselves just seem to be completely overwhelmed," Cook said.
"They don't have enough horsepower to handle the sheer volume of claims."
Insurance providers are working around the clock to settle claims quickly, Chuck Leitgeb, vice president of the Insurance Council of New Jersey, said. However, most oceanfront businesses flooded, so the National Flood Insurance Program would pay their claims, instead of their insurance companies. Insurance companies act as a liaison, Leitgeb said.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration is offering low interest loans for businesses impacted by Sandy. FEMA partnered with the Small Business Administration and approved $30 million in low interest loans to businesses, officials say.
But it's been a painful recovery for business owners like Christopher Wood in downtown Sea Bright. He reopened Woody's bar on Church Street Wednesday after a $400,000 rebuilding project. His insurance provider kicked in $150,000 and he is awaiting response on more money.
But if that doesn't come soon, he'll be paying construction bills out of pocket or getting a small business loan.
"We just opened that restaurant 15 months ago," he said.
"The lost revenue, that hurts. It's an uncomfortable thing."
Vendors also get hit in the crossfire. Restaurants often have agreements with vendors who depend on that income.
Wood said the closure impacted at least six food vendors, five liquor companies and four beer distributors for Woody's.
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