By Peter D'Oench

SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) – Gasoline prices continue to plummet in Florida and around the country but demand has also dropped dramatically as drivers stay home to keep COVID-19 from spreading. The impact of that is taking its toll on gas station owners and their related businesses.

Enrique Finkelstein has owned Red Bird Mobil on the corner of Red and Bird Roads in Southwest Miami-Dade for the past 32 years. He sells gasoline, repairs cars and runs the convenience store.

“I have been through many things like hurricanes but not anything like this, not anything like this. We have to get rid of some employees and it hurts a lot,” he explained to CBS4’s Peter D’Oench.

He says he has to lay off three employees and cut back on some hours of his four remaining employees.

“People are not driving,” he said. “People are not out there on the street. What we see are a lot of commercial vehicles but not personal cars. The volume of gasoline sold is really low. It is really low. The profit is a little bit better but the volume is really really low.”

“Thank God there’s not been much impact so far on the convenience store,” he said.

He also said there was another problem.

He is still waiting to receive his check under the federal Payroll Protection Program.

“I have been waiting for the PPP check but it’s been too long,” he said. “I applied for it two weeks ago and now I am not sure. I am working with my bank to see about getting it and I am waiting to see what happens with the Small Business Administration. I have to keep holding on but I think this is going to be a long time.”

He said he is trying to remain optimistic even though the economy, like many of the vehicles he repairs, is stalled right now.

His once-packed gasoline pumps are no longer crowded.

Stopping at Red Bird Mobil to get gasoline, Leteice Rolle, who is an electrician, said he appreciated the lower price of gasoline. At Red Bird Mobil, regular gasoline is $1.89. It is $2.69 for premium.

“I think it’s great. This is great,” he said. “I can fill up for $20 and it used to be $40. That is half the price. But I am driving far less in my personal car. I used to drive it every day. Now I use it at most twice a week.”

Another man named Alberto said his visits to a gas pump are rare.

“When was the last time you filled up?” D’Oench asked him.

“At the end of March,” he said. “Because I am not going anywhere.”

He said it did not matter how much gasoline there was for delivery from such places as Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

“The price of oil is irrelevant to us right now,” he said emphatically. “It could be free but I am not going to use the gas.”

Peter D'Oench

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