One of the most vocal complainers is David Quirarte, co-owner of the four Margarita's restaurants. Interminable construction work on the railroad tracks over Southwest Boulevard near 25th Street has hurt business at the original Margarita's (2829 Southwest Boulevard). "We're down 15 to 20 percent," Quirarte says. "We get calls every day from people asking how to get to the restaurant. The detour signs have them totally confused. Most people are creatures of habit, and when they get inconvenienced, they'll just turn and find somewhere else to go."
Several restaurateurs on Southwest Boulevard are getting paranoid, hearing rumors from construction crews that the project -- scheduled to be finished August 1 -- is taking much longer than planned. These rumors annoy Quirarte, who believes the lack of easy access to and from I-35 cuts into his dinner business, particularly on nights when there's a concert at Kemper Arena.
"Customers who might stick around for an extra margarita have to allot more time to get over to the arena," he says. "It's not just an easy hop onto the highway."
Frank Macaluso, who owns the eight-week-old Gia's Italian Restaurant (2905 Southwest Boulevard), agrees that the bridge construction isn't helping business.
"I put up a big sign on top of my building, which draws in a lot of people from the highway, but I hear they get all turned around once they get off the highway," Macaluso says.
Things were bad after the 1993 flood, Quirarte recalls. "But at least with the flood, there was a beginning and an end. We knew we could start working and reopen in sixty days. This project seems to be going on forever."
"Actually, it's three weeks ahead of schedule," says Chuck Mader, vice president of TransSystems Corporation, which has been rebuilding the 1911 bridge for the Kansas City Terminal Railway since last summer. "We've been on a pretty aggressive schedule. Southwest Boulevard will be open again for traffic in early August."
But until then, it looks like a long, dry summer for the Southwest Boulevard restaurateurs.