Summer is the busiest time of year for tourism in Pismo Beach and the surrounding area but some businesses in Shell Beach say they’re missing out on the money because a long stretch of road construction is keeping visitors away.
“A lot of customers are pretty unhappy,” said Steaming Bean barista Aeva Martaugh. “They’re frustrated by the parking.”
Parking space is now occupied by large equipment and the peaceful ambiance of the patios is interrupted by the sound of machines.
“Sometimes you can’t park anywhere,” Martaugh said. “That was, I think, for two weeks. We lost a lot of business in those two weeks.”
This café is not the only one steaming over lost business.
Chelsea Brescia, owner of Joy Cafe, said business has declined by nearly half since road work began.
“We’ve absolutely had a decline, business was growing consistently, then construction caused it to level off,” Brescia said. “Then when it moved out front, it almost completely cut off.”
Brescia said she plans to start a delivery service in hopes of saving her young, two-year-old business.
A server at Zorro’s Café said she hears construction complaints from customers who are fed up before they ever take a bite.
Last week, Pismo Beach City Engineer Ben Fine sweetened the deal by thanking drivers for their patience with ice cream.
“(The project is) removing all overhead power lines, installing 8-foot sidewalks on the business side of the street,” Fine said.
Throw in a multi-use trail on the other side of the highway and those improvements add up to about $13 million, making it the biggest project in Shell Beach history.
The improvement plan has been in the works for about 20 years and completion is set for 2020.
“It will completely transform the village of Shell Beach,” Fine said.
He said change is never easy but believes the pain will pay off.
“The biggest hurdle for us has been the rainy season. We had an unprecedented rain year with rain lasting until just a few weeks ago,” Fine said.
Rain has hampered some progress, as well as the discovery of an abandoned pipeline that crews had to remove before replacing with a new line. The new water line will improve water access for firefighters.
The next big milestone for this project is the removal of the overhead power lines on Shell Beach Road, which is set for August.