Hotels Empty, Streets Barren

"Open, drink specials" read the spray-painted sign on the plywood covering Ted's Hideaway, but only die-hard locals were taking advantage at the normally popular South Beach (search) watering hole Saturday.

The song on the jukebox was appropriate for anyone expecting a tourist to walk in: Bob Marley's (search) wistful "Waiting in Vain."

Florida businesses were battered by Hurricane Frances (search) before it even hit landfall, as tourists evacuated Miami Beach and coastal areas 300 miles up Florida's east coast to Daytona Beach.

Many state and local officials said it was too early to guess how much money was being lost on the normally busy Labor Day weekend, but it was costing tourism industries millions of dollars. Most businesses were closed, and many of those that stayed open saw a big dropoff in customers.

At Ted's, people who ignored orders to flee watched the storm's progress on television and played pool.

"They ate a lot of food and they drank some beverages. They seemed to have fun," said co-owner Bob Wilcox. But he estimated that Frances would cost the bar about 50 percent of its business.

In Broward County, Nicki Grossman, CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, estimated that $2.5 million was lost on the first day of evacuations when hotel occupancy on Fort Lauderdale's beach went from a record-high 73 percent to zero. About 700 tourists were sent to shelters or other hotels, she said.

"That's incredible business for September and when you have to kiss it goodbye, you hate to kiss it," Grossman said.

The Greater Miami Convention and Visitor's Bureau estimated that hotels in and near Miami Beach would have losses running into the low millions.

Florida's major central Florida resorts and theme parks were closed Saturday, including Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando.

Carnival Corp. had nine ships out at sea, with about 10,000 passengers aboard, that can't dock until late Sunday or Monday, after the storm passes, company spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said.

"We always overstock on food, so they're not going to run out of stuff to eat," she said.