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Overland Bridge Project construction hurts restaurant business

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A southside restaurant owner is concerned about the future of his business because a heavily traveled exit from Interstate 95 to Phillips Highway is closed due to the Overland Bridge Project.

The exit closed a week ago Monday night and will stay that way for about the next four months.

The owner of Southern Charm Restaurant, at 3566 St Augustine Road, told News4Jax that the construction is costing him customers.

"Oh, upset, upset would be right to say when they just made a blanket cut off Phillips Highway," owner Arthur Jennette said. "Well, that's literally cut our throat here as a small business up and down Phillips Highway."

The owner and chef said his business at Southern Charm has gone down 30 percent since the closing of the I-95 southbound off-ramp at Philips Highway.

Jennette said the lunch crowd is where he makes most of his money, but his customers don't have time to take a detour to get there.

"If they have to go all the way down to Emerson get off the expressway, fight that traffic around gate and Mcdonalds, and come all the way back to me, they're not going to do it," Jennette said.

Jennette acknowledged that business is normally slow on Mondays, but said instead of his usual 25 customers, Monday he only had three.

He said the only thing that is saving him right now is the Internet, which is bringing him some out-of-towners since he's lost his regulars who work downtown.

"I am blessed that I am getting tourism, because I'm so high-rated on the Internet, but I like to see my local downtown people," Jennette said.

Jennette said he reached out to the Florida Department of Transportation and asked them to come up with another traffic pattern, but couldn't find common ground with agency officials.

The off-ramp is expected to reopen in about four months, weather permitting. The Overland Bridge Project as a whole is expected to be finished next summer.