NAPLES — Although many businesses are adapting to the gas line break in Southwest Florida, they still stand to lose plenty of revenue if gas service is not quickly restored.
“It’s going to be a big number for everyone,” said Skip Quillen, a co-owner of Culinary Concepts, which runs Chops, Yabba’s and other gas-dependent restaurants in Lee and Collier counties.
But the question is, will businesses be able to collect lost revenue?
Many restaurants will first try to collect from their business interruption insurance, said Quillen.
As the name states, those insurance plans cover when businesses have to shut down.
Not all business owners are hopeful that insurance will come through.
Phil McCabe, who owns the Inn on Fifth hotel in Naples, said he called his “loss of income” insurance company this morning, but a representative told him the gas outage wasn’t covered in the plan since the source of the problem happened offsite.
Even for those hopeful about their insurance plans, there are limits to those reimbursements.
Depending on the plan, Quillen explained, businesses may have to meet a deductible or face ceilings on how much they can get reimbursed.
Quillen said one business may lose $50,000 in revenue, but only get $10,000 from his insurance.
Quillen said the business could hire a lawyer and sue for the other $40,000.
With the possibility of gas being out for days for some, there could be a drove of businesses lining up to sue after the losses are counted.
So who will pay?
After the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this summer, businesses that lost revenue could file claims for reimbursement against the responsible party: BP.
There are no reports yet of anyone lining to be the responsible party in Thursday’s explosion, though.
There could be at least two entities that lawyers may try to blame: TECO Gas, which operates the utility, and Posen Construction, whose employee was critically injured when he struck the gas main.
Responsibility could be determined with an investigation, some suggest, or it may happen through litigation.
A loss of gas service in Jupiter in May, also involving TECO, might indicate how tough it is for businesses to collect revenue losses.
A low pressure drop in a pipe caused a gas outage that affected at least 10,000 customers in the West Palm Beach area, some for as many as five days.
Like businesses in Lee and Collier discovered on Thursday night, no gas meant no service for some.
Olimpia Zuccarelli, owner of two restaurants in the Palm Beach Area, said she faced $15,000 to $20,000 in revenue losses after being force to close for two days.
But there was no pay out from TECO, she said, or the loss of income for her employees.
“The gas company did nothing,” she said.
It was determined that TECO was not to blame for the May outage, said Kirsten Olsen, spokeswoman for the Florida Public Service Commission.
Instead, the pressure drop was blamed on a lightening strike and labeled ‘an act of God’ with no responsible party.
Zuccarelli said she had interruption insurance, but that only covered a fraction of her losses.
Staff writers Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster and Eric Staats contributed to this story.
GAS LINE EXPLOSION - MULTIMEDIA
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- Video: TECO President Speaks at Press Conference
- Video: TECO discusses plan for gas restoration
- Video: Restaurants cope with gas outage
- Photos: Hotel owner uses personal house to help patrons
- Photos: Ritz Carlton sends laundry to Marco Island
- Photos: Restaurants improvise kitchens, menus during gas outage
- Photos: Naples restaurants shut down due to gas line break
- Family of victim shoulders true burden of gas line explosion
- TECO official: Backup to prevent future gas outages not likely in near future
- TECO shifts focus to restoring gas to Collier residents
- Staying safe: Fire officials worried about propane, outdoor grills at restaurants
- Gas outage update: Many back in business
- Gas explosion victim, Bonita Springs soccer star, critical in Tampa hospital
- Room service: Hotels struggle to keep guests happy during gas outage
- Natural disaster: Gas outages cause financial setbacks, cold showers
- Can businesses collect lost revenue from gas line break?
- Restaurants improvise kitchens, menus during gas outage
- Some businesses gain as others scramble to avoid loss from gas main break
- 8,000 homes, restaurants without gas
- Restaurants across Southwest Florida shut down due to gas line break in Fort Myers
- Archived Interactive Map: Restaurant openings/closings due to the gas line explosion