Vista construction project hurting local businesses

VISTA, Calif. – Major work to revitalize the downtown area of Vista is creating some big problems for local businesses.

An old Mexican restaurant on South Santa Fe Avenue is now home to the hip new gastropub Partake.

Keith Fournier started Partake three years ago out of a passion for food and wine.

“I realized wine was kind of like a second calling for me,” said Fournier. “When I came here there was no restaurant like this of its kind. A lot of people told me I took a little bit of a risk.”

The risk paid off, as since then Partake has made a name in the culinary community.

“One of the best burgers in town, we were noted for that,” said Fournier.

But in recent months, even the best awards aren’t filling seats at the gastropub.

“I have customers coming in, regulars that haven’t been as regular, and their reason is they don’t want to deal with the construction,” said Fournier.

He’s not alone.

“We definitely saw a dip in the people and the flow coming through here,” said Shelly Kentner, owner of 508 Tavern.

Kentner’s been in business for about a year and a half. Currently, the stretch of road in front of her restaurant is completely shut down.

“It’s a little daunting. You’re not sure if we’re open, you’re not sure what the road conditions are in front,” said Kentner. “They’ll avoid this road altogether, therefore avoiding the businesses on this road.”

Businesses are being affected by a two-year project working to improve the South Santa Fe corridor, including resurfacing the street, sidewalks and undergrounding utilities.

"The City of Vista is still moving ahead with the second phase in the Paseo Santa Fe Street Improvement project which, when completed, will benefit the whole downtown community,” said Andrea McCullough, communications officer for the City of Vista.

In the meantime, McCullough said the city has met with business owners and even provided a construction survival took kit. The tool kit includes suggestions on how to use social media and local media and also encourages taking out small business loans.

“I try really hard every day. I go home and I cry every day now and then because I can’t figure out how to fix it," said Fournier.

Fournier said the city needs to do more and he said it’s not about sour grapes, but rather survival.

“I think it’s going to be great when it’s done. The question is will I make it through the construction,” said Fournier.