Business at Malay Malay is slower than usual these days.
Where once a full-time serving staff of about five worked regularly, now three people run things, said Danielle Darbonne, a manager at the Malaysian eatery, 2508 Interstate 45.
“Construction has taken a toll,” Darbonne said. “Other than that, we’re just hanging in here and surviving.”
Mere weeks after crews, at the behest of the Texas Department of Transportation, shut down the FM 646 overpass bridge spanning Interstate 45, business owners on both sides of the interstate nearby say they are starting to feel the hurt.
Owners of Olympia Grill, 2535 Interstate 45, which recently has been closed, said their business was off because of the construction.
“If someone misses the restaurant, then they have to drive another 5 miles to get back to it,” said Larry Kriticos, an owner of the business.
Olympia Grill is in Pinnacle Park, an 100-acre mixed-use town center at Interstate 45 and Big League Dreams Parkway. Operators of several other businesses in the development said they also were hurting because of the construction.
The sudden and abrupt closure of Olympia Grill, which only opened November after months of planning and construction, kicked up talks throughout Galveston County’s biggest city about the affect construction is having on local business.
Kriticos said he would make a decision some time on his plans to reopen the restaurant, which is closed “due to kitchen maintenance,” according to a sign on the door.
Representatives for businesses such as H-E-B declined to comment about whether the closures were hurting sales, but all those who did comment acknowledged the problems they were facing.
“You can never be prepared enough,” said Manish Maheshwari, who, with business partners, owns franchises Little Bella Mia and Coco Crepes, Waffles & Coffee in Pinnacle Park, near Olympia Grill.
Representatives for the developer of Pinnacle Park, Pinnacle Alliance Fund, did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.
Crews on March 1 closed the FM 646 overpass as the first step in expanding the highway in that area, but ongoing Interstate 45 construction isn’t new.
Department officials also have closed down many of the exits between FM 517 and FM 518 as part of their $120 million effort to expand the interstate, leading to long lines of cars during rush hour and discouraging many would-be shoppers.
Over the next six months, crews will demolish the FM 646 bridge, with plans to eventually replace it with a street running under the interstate, officials said.
Businesses in the area can weather a six-month project, but they could have problems if that schedule slows down, Maheshwari said.
“The main thing is you don’t really know how long it will go on,” he said. “That uncertainty you saw when they closed parts of Bay Area Boulevard for construction — a bunch of businesses closed down. It’s just a matter of how long the process goes on.
“As a business owner, you love some construction because that signifies growth,” Maheshwari said. “The concern is that it’s done in a timely manner.”
City Manager John Baumgartner at the State of the City address said he thought construction on Interstate 45 in the League City area, which includes more than the FM 646 bridge work, should be finished in 2021.
The plan to widen Interstate 45 through Galveston County is divided into several phases.