Ongoing construction driving away business from St. Mary’s Strip, bar owners say

Mayor Nirenberg tells KSAT city putting pressure on contractor to expedite project

SAN ANTONIO – Ongoing construction on the St. Mary’s Strip is driving customers away, and business owners say they don’t know how much longer they can operate in the current condition.

Frustrations are boiling over for business owners and employees on the strip. The nightlife has disappeared as people don’t deal with the traffic headache, according to Aaron Peña, owner of the Squeezebox.

“We saw a $67 sales revenue for a day on a weekend day. Down the street, at Rumble, they had an $11 Wednesday,” Peña said. “Not even during COVID when I was forcefully closed, and I was doing drive-thru service only -- I was able to sustain more employees than I’m currently able to sustain.”

Peña said people can’t navigate the street due to road closures and detours. He added that the construction is leading businesses to a breaking point, and employees are looking for other jobs.

“I started here making a certain amount of money, and it dropped down by more than 60%,” said Alexis Rodriguez, a bartender at Slackers.

Peña added, “I’m thinking that a lot of bars, including myself and restaurants -- any nightlife, hospitality that’s on this street -- will not make it past this next year.”

Trying to get around on foot is just as tricky if you manage to find parking. Large portions of the strip don’t have sidewalks, and people walking in dirt and gravel can easily step into the construction site. Those who work on the strip worry safety isn’t a priority for the city.

“Nails and walking over boards, and people can get hurt, and they don’t care,” Rodriguez said.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg told KSAT during the 6 p.m. Q&A on Tuesday that the project was being expedited. He’s hopeful the construction will be finished by March 2023.

“We are putting the pressure on the contractor to get this job done,” Nirenberg said. “They’ve been through COVID. They’ve been through, you know, policy wrangling. They’ve been through a lot of things that have been challenging.”

San Antonio District 1 Councilman Mario Bravo said he agrees with business owners and residents that more needs to be done. He was walking down the strip Tuesday afternoon, looking at the issue for himself.

Bravo said he wants to look at potential financial assistance for impacted businesses.

“I had a conversation with the city manager and the mayor about that yesterday, and they’re exploring solutions right now. And I hope to hear back from them in the next week or two,” Bravo said.


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About the Authors:

John Paul Barajas is a reporter at KSAT 12. Previously, he worked at KRGV 5 in the Rio Grande Valley. He has a degree from the University of Houston. In his free time, he likes to get a workout in, spend time on the water and check out good eats and drinks.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.