SAN ANTONIO – Efren Moreno, the owner of Blush in Southtown, said this Saturday had the slowest business since opening his restaurant in March.
“It’s definitely a challenge, and we’ve had to kind of just now undertake it on top of just operating,” Moreno said.
Blush is located in the 700 Block of South Alamo Street. This week, construction crews blocked off access to South Alamo Street from Cesar E Chavez Blvd. It’s part of the larger South Alamo Street Project associated with the South Alamo 2017 Bond Project. Even though the sidewalks are still open, some business owners worry the closure will impact sales.
The city said overarching project construction began in December 2022. This intersection closure is just one phase of the entire project.
“It’s a total reimagination beautification project to go along with Civic Park,” said Rod Sanchez, assistant city manager. “We also do all the utility work underneath, so there’s drainage involved. We’ve got to redo the storm drains and work with our utilities.”
Sanchez said this specific closure should last about three weeks, but the entire project will be completed in early 2025. The city said it began communicating the project and the traffic control plan in September.
The city sent KSAT 12 a timeline of its communication efforts for this closure, saying it first notified “stakeholders” on Sept. 8 at the City’s monthly Downtown Safety and Construction Update meeting. The city also said in-person visits, emails, flyers and social media posts started on Sept. 18 through Sept. 29.
“We want to make it as painless as possible for them, but we know it’s inconvenient,” Sanchez said. “We’re constantly evolving and learning, and there’s always something that we could do better. But I do feel that we did give ample notice about this street closure.”
But multiple businesses along South Alamo Street that KSAT 12 spoke with said they only received notice a week out from the closure, including Miles Donnelly, the owner at La Frite Belgian Bistro.
“We didn’t really know until recently, in the last probably five, six days of the true impact,” Donnelly said. “We needed to talk to try to figure out a solution-based system on how we do not make this into another long-running issue like North St. Mary’s or any other construction project that affected small business.”
Sanchez said one of the biggest lessons learned from the St. Mary’s Strip project was the need for direct communication with the city. Sanchez said that’s one of the reasons they pushed for in-person visits with businesses across Southtown at large.
“We want to talk to those folks in that immediate area and make sure they know because they’re the most impacted. But we do put other things out there for everybody to see,” Sanchez said. “We knew that those businesses were going to be impacted by this closure. So we went the extra mile and notified them.”
But even then, Moreno and Donnelly said they wished they had more notice so they could start looking for solutions.
“This is the corridor to get down into our neighborhood,” Donnelly said. “With more notification, we can really find more solutions to figure out the problems that we are -- that all the small businesses are having.”
A spokesperson for Councilwoman Sukh Kaur of District 1 confirmed that finding solutions for Southtown is one of the office’s top priorities. They said three large signs directing people to Southtown will be put up early next week. They also said the Durango Lot off Cesar E Chavez will be free for the rest of October to drive business to the area, and they also will up their social media efforts.
Moreno hopes it will be enough to keep his shop surviving.
“Three weeks is going to be tough for us, but it’s something we can overcome,” Moreno said. “We need the support of the San Antonio area.”