MEDIA DISTRICT — Happy hour at Sardo's Grill and Lounge hasn't been as chipper since state officials closed the Pass Avenue bridge as part of the $47-million Hollywood Way onramp project.
"For nine months now you could walk in at 6 o'clock and there would be three people at the bar, unfortunately including me," said owner Seymour Satin, who has seen sharp declines in business since workers reopened the Hollywood Way-Alameda Avenue bridge, but then moved ahead with construction of the new onramp to the westbound Ventura (134) Freeway.
While the city arranged detours around the Pass Avenue bridge closure, visitors to the Lakeside Shopping Center were forced to contend with signs warning "No Left Turn" and "Local Access Only," Satin said.
"The public doesn't understand that they can turn on these signs and not get a ticket," he said. "My biggest concern is people have found new places to eat, shop and get their clothes cleaned. People are creatures of habit, and after this long, maybe they find other places to go."
That's the question facing dozens of business owners as crews today prepare to reopen the Pass Avenue over-crossing.
Patrick Chandler, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation, said the agency has fielded numerous questions, concerns and complaints.
With the reopening, much of the vehicle and foot traffic from Burbank, Toluca Lake and North Hollywood could resume, Chandler said.
"We're aware that some of the businesses there have seen a decline," Chandler said. "With the detour, some people told us they would get lost. There's no real way to try to cover up the loss of businesses at these times."
Compounded by the slowing economy, at least two stores have shuttered, while others have trimmed their staffs and cut their hours — holding out for the end of construction.
"Look at natural disasters and other things that create hardships. A lot of times we see the government step in to help them," Satin said. "But on our side, it's government that's screwing them over."
Transportation officials said the onramp project, expected to be completed this fall, would enhance safety, relieve congestion and improve access to and from the 134 Freeway and Media District.
In addition to the traffic detours, pedestrians were also required to use alternate routes, which became problematic for those walking to the shopping center from Toluca Lake, said Sana Hamadani, a manager at Bank of America.
"That's the complaint we heard the most, and what happened was people just started going to other branches," Hamadani said. "We as branches all have goals, and I haven't met my goals since September."
Ron Roscoe, of Flair Cleaners at 337 N. Pass Ave., said people found the detours particularly difficult to navigate.
"They found it very time-consuming to use," Roscoe said. "And if they have a certain amount of time for lunch, you don't want to spend the time making left turns."
Existing traffic on area roads had grown to the point that old configuration could no longer accommodate the demand, city officials said.
The project includes construction of retaining and sound walls along the Hollywood Way ramps. The over-crossings for Alameda and Pass avenues and Hollywood Way will also be lengthened to accommodate the new onramp.