Marina Bay businesses reporting losses due to Moody Underpass road closure

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It was 5 o’clock and the sun was setting on Richmond’s Marina Bay waterfront. Three couples sat in booths along the veranda at Salute E Vita Ristorante, enjoying the view on a recent Thursday evening.

“The veranda and bar should be filled (with customers),” said Traci McWain, manager at the Italian eatery.

Business has steadily declined since Marina Bay Parkway was shutdown in September to begin construction on the Officer Bradley A. Moody Memorial Underpass, according to several businesses in the area.

“It’s like a ghost town in here (during lunch shifts),” said Rachel Taormina, a server of five years at Salute. Owner Menbere Aklilu bought her employee Taormina dinner Tuesday night after telling her not to come in for her lunch shift that day, and asking her to clock out early during her dinner shift because of lack of business.

Aklilu said lunch business is down approximately 25 percent since the closure, which caused two servers to quit recently. And Salute isn’t the only Marina Bay business feeling the crunch.

According to sales figures provided by the owner of Cafe Pascal, business is down almost 20 percent from July to October.

Eight Marina Bay retail businesses have reported sales losses because of the road closure and are looking to the city for help.

“It was something we knew could be a possibility, but didn’t know how much and to what degree,” said Chad Smalley, project manager for the Successor Agency to the Richmond Community Redevelopment Agency.

Smalley said business owners first contacted Jacqueline Majors, the community liaison for the underpass project, shortly after the road closure began Sept. 3 and reported losses. Smalley and Majors visited all eight businesses last week to speak with their owners.

“We’re trying to get a handle on what the range of problems are and come up with a possible comprehensive solution,” Smalley said. “We don’t have one yet, but we are working on it.”

New signage was recently placed at the intersection of Marina Way South and Regatta Boulevard, directing detoured traffic to Salute and a few other businesses on the other side of the Marina Bay Parkway closure.

“(It’s) a small sign, and nobody can read it,” Aklilu said.

Aklilu said she spent nearly $1,000 on signs of her own directing drivers to Salute, and each one has disappeared within 24 hours of placement at intersections near the detour.

Others among Salute’s 31 employees are feeling the effects of the slowdown.

Server Haris Raftis has worked there for two months, crossing the Carquinez Bridge from Fairfield for each shift. Last week, he made $20 in tips for three days in a row.

“That doesn’t even cover my gas or bridge toll (for the week),” Raftis said.

Server Amber Garrett said she worries about money now after a few shifts in which she made $30 in tips.

Aklilu said the city needs to come up with a plan soon.

“This is horrible,” she said.

Smalley said the city is taking the issue seriously.

“We are not dismissive of this issue at all,” he said. “This is something we want to get ahead of and solve.”

13 Comments

  1. Michael

    Kinda funny, you know, probably the only places outside of the Point where you can get a restaurant lunch.
    Let’s face it ( as always), Richmond just doesn’t generate enough middle class paying jobs to support good lunch/dinner restaurants. And certainly no good working class lunch spots one can easily find among the fast food gorp and the endless storefronts on 23rd or SPA.
    It’s just too damn bad, because we have some of the most diverse cuisine in the world around here. It just happens at home, because there’s just not enough people/jobs around town for paying customers.
    Same old Richmond story: Business start here like Pixar, people work here, then make some money and get out.

    • Toni

      Michael, the subject of the article was how the road closure on Marina Bay Parkway due to the Moody Underpass construction has affected patronage of these businesses. They were doing fine before the road closure. The road will be closed in both directions for 18 months while the project is being completed.

      • MarinaGirl

        they weren’t doing fine – they don’t cater to those of use that live in the marina nor do they care to. why should the city bail out a private business? it is ridiculous. Salute can feed the homeless for thanksgiving AND give out a coupon to them for 10 free take-out meals but does nothing to market to the paying customers around her. she snubs all of us and in return we go elsewhere.

        • My goodness—what an attitude! What exactly do you think these businesses owe you?

          It seems as though you’re singling out Salute’s because they don’t cater to you and your neighbors.

          When I read about the efforts of Salute as they gave back to their community it made me feel proud but to read your words it sounds as if you’re ticked off because more of an effort was made to take care of the disadvantaged than was made to take care of you and your friends. That’s scary and embarrassing at the same time.

          Did someone suggest that the City (meaning the taxpayers) should bail out these businesses because the City was making it difficult for their customers to reach them? I haven’t heard or read about such a plan so why are you pooh-poohing it like you are. A lot of your effort seems to be spent spitting on a plan that has even been suggested.

          And please don’t forget that the reason for the decline in business is a direct result of actions taken by the City and others with this road project. This isn’t the result of a downturn in the economy or because a better business has opened up snatching the customers. It’s because customers are having too tough a time getting to these businesses.

          • MarinaGirl

            in one article Salute is going under, in another she is hosting free thanksgiving for the homeless and giving them a coupon for 10 free take-out meals, a third she is hiring homeless. when is she going to tell the truth?

            yes – the city has a “committee” – i.e. paid employees going business to business to address the losses i.e. a bail out.

            this underpass should have been built years ago and those of us in the marina are sick and tired of having long wait times for emergency services because the city of richmond will not enforce fines against the “private” railroad for blocking access not to mention blowing their horns at 3am.

            I agree that the city has done a poor job in terms of signage etc. but really what do you expect? the whole council ignores the marina until they either want money or to raise taxes on us. It isn’t like the whole city is paying for this – it is the homeowners in the marina who have HIGHER taxes who are paying for this underpass with the state and fed matching funds.

            The business owners need to ban together and get it fixed – something they should have done before the closure.

          • MarinaGirl

            and finally – which is more important – a business having to get creative to get customers in or a marina resident who has a heart attack and dies on the way to the hospital because the train blocked marina way and marina bay at the same time and emergency services were delayed 7 to 10 minutes?

            go do your homework before vilifying me.

          • MarinaGirl

            you can’t cry poor and give out free meals – sorry Don capitalism doesn’t work that way. everyone had plenty of warning that this was going to happen and even had an extra 45 days because they delayed it. mark my words – Green Gail will write checks to these businesses out of the general fund within 6 months to “save” them.

            The “downturn” is bull – restaurants in the point, albany and berkeley are doing fine – you are promoting a myth.

  2. Michael

    I have lived in the Marina Bay area of Richmond for over 15 years and the detour is a real challenge. It takes a driver all around the back roads of Richmond and makes for confusion to friends who want to visit. Oh the signs are orange and bold enough but the added distance makes for some mis-direction. I no longer make impromptu trips from my house until I think it through the detour. The restaurant Salute’ is a place I have celebrated many family occasions and I’m very sad to hear their business is down. What kind of person would remove the Salute’ signs? They were professionally done and helped the guests to locate the restaurant without getting caught in the detour maze. I think it is time for our Mayor Gayle of Richmond to come up with a solution to what is becoming a big problem. To think this is an 18 month detour project is a very sobering reality. Help is needed!

    • MarinaGirl

      the detour is easy – go out regatta to bay view if you are heading south – regatta to marina way going north – there is no challenge and frankly going out the south way is faster than the lights and getting stopped by the train all the time going out marina bay. it is a little bit like doing a driving test with some of those curves but at least I am not always waiting for them to stop playing on their trains.

  3. Philip

    I’m surprised nobody foresaw this from happening. My main worry is that in 18 months we’ll have the underpass but are left with more diesel trains, less restaurants, and other unintended consequences.

  4. I am the community outreach coordinator on this MB Project, and I do read the comments and concerns our residents/businesses have. We are in the process of posting 4 more signs to post along the detour route. I received the PO number and approval yesterday 12/4/2013. Please do not hesitate to contact me at any time; marketing ideas, suggestions etc…. Jacqueline Majors Community Outreach Coordinator 925-949-6196 mobile.

  5. I’m at a loss here. Is anyone reading here where someone is saying they should never have built the overcrossing? Has anyone written that a problem did not exist that required action? Has anyone written that this should not have happened long ago? Has anyone written that they don’t see these delays as a problem for everyone where a solution needs to be found?

    So why am I reading comments suggesting otherwise.

    And why am I reading comments where an author is calling the owner of Salute’s a liar?

    Because she is willing to give her hard earned money to give back to the community she’s being called a liar? Does this author know for a fact that the owner isn’t going in the hole to take care of the homeless?

    Of course, you know that because of her good deeds, she has volunteers that donate their time and money to help her with this and she also has vendors donating the materials she needs to make this happen?

    At what point do we just say thank you for doing something nice instead of vilifying them and calling them a liar?

    And this “committee” run by the City that is bailing out these businesses—why is this being kept a secret from the public and the Council? Who is on this committee, what is their mandate and how much are they spending to bail out these businesses? Having City staff talking to the business owners to try to find a solution to their problem is a far cry from what anyone might call a “bail out”.

    Don’t lecture us (me) on doing my homework until you can vouch for your own claims that seem to be rooted in the thin air.

    • MarinaGirl

      go view her interview on thanksgiving day, look at the news articles – Salute’s owner does not tell the truth and I am offended that she has the nerve to ask for hand outs when she is giving away 10 free take out meals to 600+ people who were there for their free thanksgiving dinner.

      the underpass had to be done and should have been done years ago? why doesn’t the “journalists” at richmond confidential look into how many people have had to wait for ER services and why the city of Richmond does not enforce the fines against the private railroad.

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