Bridge Work Hurting Some Businesses

By Al Pefley  email

Tequesta, FL (WFLX)

Tough times for some businesses in Tequesta.

The recession has taken a toll.

But now, there's another reason they're getting fewer customers.

The Tequesta Bridge is closed making it harder for customers to get to some stores and eateries.

The Tequesta Bridge was shut down in October, and some business owners say there's definitely been an impact.  They're feeling the pinch.

Vulcano's Italian Restaurant on U.S.1 , a Tequesta landmark for more than 20 years, is still around.

But many of its customers are not. "Our customers who used to come in two or three times a week, are now coming once a week or once every other week, said Donald Cobb, a server at Vulcano's.

The eatery has watched its business drop by at least 30%, and they say it's all because of the Tequesta Bridge, which was closed down a few months ago.

"The decline is amazing, last year was okay. This year it's just an unbelievable change in difference," Cobb said.

The bridge is a vital link on Tequesta Drive, and with it shut down, businesses east of the bridge have been cut off from thousands of residents who live west of the bridge.

They can still get to the businesses, but they have to take a long detour that adds 15 minutes or so to their trip.

"Coming over for dinner, it's hard. Very difficult to get across," said Chris Bates, a customer at Vulcano's who was enjoying a pizza with his wife Barbara.

Palm Beach Ice Cream in Tequesta has seen a dip in its business too, since the bridge closed in October.

"A lot of people don't want to go through the hassle because it's completely out of their way now," said Margo Posner, an employee at the ice cream shop.

Some say the Florida Dept. of Transportation should've done the bridge replacement work in the summer, not in the winter at the height of tourist season.

The mayor says that wouldn't have worked, because the 50 year old bridge was unsafe and had to be shut down right away.

Dozens of Tequesta businesses are affected, she hopes they'll all survive.

"As mayor, what if anything are you planning to do to help these businesses? Well, really other than trying to communicate with the residents and the businesses, there just isn't a whole lot we can do physically," said Pat Watkins, Tequesta Mayor.

"The contractor is required to have the new $2.5 million bridge done by August.  There are incentives if the contractor is able to finish the job sooner than that.

The question is can all the businesses in Tequesta east of the bridge survive that long?

The mayor says there are no easy answers here. One idea they might consider is a shuttle bus to make it easier for residents to get to those businesses.