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Hospitality Blog

Hospitality Blog

Portsmouth Toll Shows How Business Owners Control The Controllables

UPDATE:  I reached out to Sydney at Stove to see how the toll has impacted his business.  He offers a unique perspective.  Even with tolls, your loyal customers will be back.  "I think my folks aren't bothered by it," he said.

While business has been impacted, it has to do with the region and not just a tunnel, Sydney explained.


In February, the Virginian Pilot published an article interviewing Portsmouth, VA restaurant owners who have been negatively impacted by a toll that was instated last year.

At the time, a public official said citywide stats have shown no decline in sales figures including lodging and meals taxes, several business owners have noted a decline in business.

From the Pilot article:

"It was bad with the economy, but the tolls and what they're doing now with the repairs is killing us," said Mike Simko, owner of Cafe Europa on High Street. Simko estimated that his business Friday and Saturday nights has been cut in half.


A new study published in the Pilot last month notes the tolls are costing the city an estimated $14 million in taxable revenue.  A 17,000 decline in vehicles on the weekend at the Downtown Tunnel - eep!

Whether it's a toll road, your limited street parking, your noise ordinances, or whatever bureaucracy is impacting your bread and butter, you're going to stand up and advocate to change policy.

But while that long road of cutting through red tape is happening, as small business owners, we must control the controllables - I loved this business owner's simple solution to encourage customer to keep coming to his Portsmouth staple Stove.

After the tolls took effect in 2014, Stove's chef and owner Sydney Meers, decided to take $4 off customers' checks.  And all they have to do is tell him. 

"If you come over to visit me, baby, you ain't got a toll," he told the Pilot.

What's impacting your business right now that's out of your control?  What can you control?

Photo credit: Stove

Kevin Clay