Ancaster restaurants ‘devastated’ by huge drop in sales amid construction on Garner Road

On a Thursday afternoon, seniors would normally be sitting inside the Egg and I Family Restaurant, sipping on their coffees and enjoying all-day breakfast at the Ancaster eatery.But this past Thursday, the only people in the restaurant were workers.The restaurant’s neighbour, a bar called Pub Fiction, had a handful of customers inside but was also quiet, with many empty tables and booths ready for thirsty and hungry patrons who live or work nearby.That’s because construction on Garner Road, which started on March 11, has starved the two restaurants of customers, according to the owners of both businesses.Mark Hodge, Pub Fiction’s operator, and Thiva Sri, Egg and I Family Restaurant’s owner, both told CBC Hamilton they’ve lost between 30 and 40 per cent of their sales — and they fear they may have to close down.”All of a sudden, it feels like COVID again,” Sri said.”It’s very abnormal. And it didn’t start until they put a shovel into the ground,” Hodge said.The Egg and I had no customers on Thursday afternoon. The owner says business has been much slower due to construction in front of the plaza’s access point. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)The city previously announced the closure of Garner Road’s eastbound lanes, between Wilson Street West and Southcote Road in Ancaster, until the end of the year due to maintenance work on a watermain and the road.The road connects Ancaster to the Hamilton Mountain.Work will be completed in phases and is set to be done in December, though weather could change those plans.In a December report, the city said it had initiated an environmental assessment to “improve transportation” along a portion of Garner Road, as a way “to support future growth within Hamilton, specifically the Airport Employment Growth District.”The assessment will look at the possibility of widening the road and adding lanes in the future.Hodge, Sri and Heather McCraney, Egg and I’s front of house manager, said while they support the construction work and say it’s needed, they also wish the city had worked with businesses ahead of time to try and minimize disruptions.For example, they say construction will impact patio season.They point to a recent issue that saw the restaurants lose the ability to use their landlines, card readers and internet for a weekend.Hodge employs 26 people and Sri employs 16. If both restaurants shutter, those employees will be laid off. Hodge said it would also impact the suppliers of both businesses.Pub Fiction was mostly empty on Thursday. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)The owners said they’ve made suggestions to the city including: Adding more signs telling drivers the businesses are open. Trying to open up the road to eastbound traffic sooner. Modifying a double left-turn lane on Garner so that one is eastbound and one is westbound. Having construction workers move their equipment when it isn’t in use so people can see the businesses are open. Giving the businesses money to stay afloat during construction. They also say there should have been more consultation before construction started.While they’ve communicated with the city and Ward 12 Coun. Craig Cassar, the owners are unimpressed with the response.Cassar told CBC Hamilton he has spoken to city staff and said they are doing what they can.He said the city isn’t able to provide any grants or exemption from levies and charges because of restrictions in the Municipal Act.Cassar said he has posted to social media to promote the businesses and show they are open.He said allowing eastbound access isn’t possible right now, but said the project manager is working on solutions.”Small businesses are important and we’re doing our best to promote and indicate they’re open but this is also an important project,” he said.A sign sits near Garner Road, telling drivers that businesses in the plaza are still open despite construction. Business owners want more signage, eastbound traffic opened up and a better way to direct drivers into the plaza during construction. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)Jackie Kennedy, Hamilton’s director of engineering services, said in an email the city is aware of the impacts to local businesses.”We appreciate those concerns, however, the road closures have been designed for the safety of vehicle traffic on Wilson Street, Garner Road and those entering and exiting from local businesses,” Kennedy said, adding that the city is working to get the construction done as fast as possible and that portion of the road will be reopen before the project is complete.”Any way to safely allow traffic movement beyond what is currently in place will be considered as construction progresses.”Kennedy noted there is signage advising drivers that businesses are open during construction.The city also says businesses and people in the area received notice of the construction in early February.Hodge and Sri say they worry they may have permanently lost some customers who have gone to other businesses.They’re hoping for a fix soon.”I’m devastated,” Hodge said.

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