Through the quality of their food and service, Nick Berry and Shawn Bombard were able to keep the customers who dined at Courtyard Café before they bought the restaurant in 2007. But now, the pair have lost a significant portion of their customers to something out of their control – paid parking.
Bombard and Berry, who don’t own the building they’re in, at 2211 Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors, or the attached parking lot, have been blamed by some of their customers for the $2 per hour fee instituted by the owners of the shopping center.
“It’s something we can’t control,” Berry said. Bombard added, “We were surprised people dropped us because of what our landlord did.”
Bombard and Berry have parking vouchers for a free first hour but say, despite their efforts to let people know, many customers aren’t aware. Berry said he and Bombard have been blasted on social media and received anonymous hate mail from customers who have stated they won’t eat at Courtyard Café anymore.
“It almost makes me cry. We’ve done anything everyone has ever asked of us,” said Berry, referring to the numerous charities he and Bombard help. Courtyard Café is often host to fundraisers. Most recently, the Wilton Manors Police Department used the restaurant for its Tip-A-Cop fundraiser benefitting the Special Olympics.
“We started helping non-profits since the first year we opened and we’ve been doing it ever since,” said Bombard, who started at Courtyard Café as an employee in 2002 and purchased it with Berry 10 years ago.
Bombard and Berry say there are 65 organizations they have helped out, including the Kiwanis Club of Wilton Manors, Broward House, Sunrise Middle School, the Broward Art Guild, Pride Center, Taste of the Island, Poverello, Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, Tuesday’s Angels, and the Wilton Manors Historical Society. They also contribute breakfast for Wilton Manors’ annual Veterans Day ceremony, and donate hundreds of bikes every Christmas, with the help of other members of the community, to Kids In Distress.
Although Bombard and Berry aren’t responsible for the paid parking, they say paying the $2 to park and eat at Courtyard Café helps the community.
“You’re not paying $2 [to park]. You’re paying $2 to support your community,” Berry said. He added that Courtyard Café is also one of the largest employers in the city, with 65 employees, and the only restaurant to give employees 10 percent off their bill when they eat there.
But the loss in businesses, which Bombard and Berry estimate at about 20 percent, including a drop from 170 to 130 customers per day on weekdays – a loss of $10,000 to $20,000 the first month alone. It’s also hurting how much Bombard and Berry can donate.
“We’ve had to cut back on donations because we’re not making as much,” Bombard said.