Downtown business owners reporting drop in sales due to ongoing N. LBJ construction

Senior News Reporter

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Construction on N. LBJ Drive directly in front of Root Cellar Café is scheduled for completion this fall. Kyle Mylius, owner, said the restaurant’s sales have recently decreased 15 to 20 percent.

Many business owners on North LBJ Drive and Hutchison Street say they have experienced a decrease in sales since August due to construction covering much of their property, reducing foot traffic in the downtown area.

Phase 1 of the Downtown Reconstruction Project Phase I began in August 2012 and is slated for completion this fall, according to the City of San Marcos website. As part of the 2014 plans for the project, the west side of North LBJ Drive from Hopkins to Concho Streets is temporarily closed for reconstruction for the next two to three months. The north half of East Hutchison Street is temporarily shut down for street and sidewalk construction as well.

Root Cellar Café
As a result of the construction, Kyle Mylius, owner of Root Cellar Café, said the restaurant’s sales have decreased about 15 to 20 percent, and parking has become an issue.

“There’s been a substantial parking problem downtown for a long time, and when you add a project on top of this and remove so many spots, a lot of people skip downtown because they don’t want to deal with the delay of finding a spot,” Mylius said.

Despite any parking difficulties, city officials have kept the Root Cellar informed and up-to-date with the construction schedule, Mylius said.

Stellar Café
The restaurant has experienced a loss in sales since the construction began, said owner Michael Kelton. The Café, having opened last year, gained a few regular customers before construction workers began to occupy the streets, he said.

“(The city was) really good about letting us know when stuff was coming,” Kelton said. “I’m not sure, had I known that it would take over a year, if I would have jumped in and done this.”

Kelton is also co-owner of The Stratosphere Lounge, which has remained stable during the construction. Stratosphere is a more established business on The Square, having been around for eight years, Kelton said.

Showdown on Hutchison has seen a reduction in business from older clientele during the construction, said bartender Andrew Fox. Construction workers have been parking sideways, taking up six spots at a time, deterring traffic from Showdown, Fox said.

“With a dark, unlit construction zone and the rise in crime that’s been happening lately, (pedestrians) are not wanting to walk down a dark alley or walk where no one else is walking,” Fox said. “That’s hindered (Showdown) at night for business.”

Although some business owners in the area have reported positive city interaction regarding construction, Fox said officials have not yet contacted the venue.

“We were warned in the sense that it’s going to happen and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Fox said.
Employees have had to call the city for updates on the project.

City input
City officials have been notifying San Marcos businesses about the project since plans were finalized and construction began, said Samantha Armbruster, Main Street Program Manager.

“We definitely go out of our way and above and beyond to make sure that we notify as many people as possible,” Armbruster said. “We’re pretty much in constant contact (with the businesses).”

The city has an “open door” policy, welcoming business owners to come in and give their input directly, Armbruster said.

The 23-month-long reconstruction project is designed to make several aesthetic and functional improvements to the downtown area including the replacement and addition of water lines and the implementation of new traffic signals, according to the city’s website.