San Felipe construction project causes big drop in business, restaurateur complains
The San Felipe bridge closure is causing more than traffic nightmares for anyone trying to get from River Oaks to the Galleria. The construction project is also causing a severe drop in business for Houston institution Ouisie's Table.
"We dropped more than 50%," general manager Wafi Dinari tells CultureMap. "We had an 80-person breakfast that canceled. They didn't want to deal with the traffic."
What's Dinari's advice to customers desperate to get their fill of Ouisie's signature chicken fried steak? "Bear with me," he says.
Part of the problem is the lack of communication from anyone associated with the project, Dinari says. "It is frustrated that the communication is so poor . . . We don't know what's going to happen." While the project is scheduled to be completed in two weeks, Dinari says that he's looked at the tracks and doesn't see much progress.
Making matters worse are Harris County Constable patrols who are trying to keep traffic out of the neighbor at the expense of the businesses, Dinari says. One constable blocked all traffic from proceeding westbound on San Felipe past Willowick. Dinari admits that he "got frustrated" with the constable who blocked diners from getting to the restaurant and says that one patron even shouted obscenities at him. Customers who try to access the restaurant via side streets have been cited for speeding.
Eater reports that the opening for the second location of Heights restaurant Liberty Kitchen in the former Vida Tex-Mex space on San Felipe just down the street has also been delayed by the construction, but a representative declined to comment on the accuracy of that report.
CultureMap contacted the Harris County Flood Control District; a representative provided a statement that the project is still on track. It reads,
The Flood Control District expects to complete construction on the San Felipe Street bridge . . . by the end of the projected 14-day construction schedule, so that would put the reopening of the street to traffic at that location on Monday, Oct. 7, weather permitting. We do regret any inconvenience caused to local residents, businesses and the traveling public, and appreciate their patience during this much needed project."
Ouisie's has a 32-year history, so this temporary disruption likely won't have a permanent affect on the restaurant. Still, Dinari notes that neither his landlord nor the city offer any sort of discount on rent or taxes during the construction. What's his advice to customers desperate to get their fill of Ouisie's signature chicken fried steak?
"Bear with me," he says.