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Road work hurting Jax Beach businesses

Restaurants being forced to move because of slow sales

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JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Ongoing road construction projects are hurting some Jacksonville Beach businesses.

The projects started nearly eight months ago on First Street along the central business district and surrounding roads near the pier.

The $4.8 million revamp approved in 2007 is designed to help build business, but right now it's demolishing them.

"We saw lunch business totally drop off as soon as construction on First Street started," said Paul Glaser, general manager of Fionn MacCools. "So we started closing up our lunches and opening at 5 in the evening."

Glaser said since the project started, sales are down 10 to 15 percent. That's a lot in the restaurant industry.

MacCools recently announced the Irish Pub will be moving in early Summer. Glaser said rent's too high and not enough people are coming by.

It will stay in Jacksonville Beach, but will relocate a few blocks away on busy Third Street.

"I can't fault the city. I can't pinpoint it on any one thing," Glaser said.

Many places in the area of the construction remain empty. The restaurants or bars just didn't make enough money, according to their owners. Business after business is rebranding or rebuilding -- making changes in hopes of attracting new customers.

Chicago Pizza and Rush Street, while having the same owner, will change to a beach-style bar. The Pier restaurant will be a Mexican place.

Jacksonville Beach's mayor admits the construction can be inconvenient and not necessarily the prettiest of things, but he said to take a look at the areas that are already done, such as near the Bandshell. He said everyone's been telling him how pretty it is, and they love the finished product.

City officials said the project will be a boost for the area in the long run, and sometimes things like this just have to be done.

Some business owners agree, like Jax Beach Surf Shop's Tony Hall, who's already seen an uptick in customers.

"Our Springing the Blues (Festival last weekend) was one of the better ones I've ever seen, and the construction's not even done yet," Hall said. "And I think as things progress along, it's going to make it more user-friendly for families to come out and enjoy the beach."

City officials said the project is within budget and construction in the First Street area should be done by June 12. The whole project is slated to wrap up in December.