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Wednesday, November 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Bennidito’s owners have seen this before: street construction that robs business

This isn’t the first time that Chris and Sigrid Bennett, owners of two Bennidito’s locations, have suffered through construction-related slowdowns in their businesses.

This is the third time in a little more than three years their two pizza and brew pub locations have been hampered because the streets were torn up.

Fewer customers show up when they are forced to take detours and approach from the backsides of businesses.

In 2014, South Monroe and Lincoln streets were shut down for months for reconstruction of the arterial to two through lanes with drainage features, new sidewalks and crosswalks.

“We lost thousands up there,” Chris Bennett said of the South Hill project.

Then last year, the city closed the Monroe Street Hill southbound and Lincoln northbound to remake that street.

Now, East Sprague Avenue is shut down from Helena to Altamont streets. It is a strip with numerous small businesses now suffering from lost business.

The street shutdowns can be confusing to drivers, Bennett said. “People don’t know what to do.”

Bennidito’s Brewpub opened just about two years ago at 1909 E. Sprague, where the beer is brewed for the two outlets. The brewery is in a small building that was once an auto showroom next to the pub.

Last week, the brewpub on Sprague had several tables of people eating lunch with drinks at midafternoon.

Bartender Melanie Heyn said that the brewpub is getting by because it had already built a loyal clientele who continue to show up, just in fewer numbers than before construction started.

“We’ve been killed down here,” she said. “We were really gathering steam.”

Sprague was restriped several years ago from four lanes to two through lanes and a center turn lane.

The project today will make that change permanent and build the necessary amenities to go with it. The end result should be a safer and more attractive street.

Chris Bennett said the project will be a positive change for the business area once it is done.

New sidewalks, landscaping, pedestrian lighting and refuge islands for pedestrians in the median are included in the project.

They will go along with utility upgrades and full reconstruction and repaving of the street.

Initially, the project was supposed to last into September in two phases, but the work plan changed in May. Now, the entire stretch from Helena to Altamont is closed with completion expected in late August.

L&L Cargile Inc., of Spokane Valley, is the contractor on the $3.8 million project. Work started in April.

Thomas Speight, owner and baker at Spokane Cheesecakes, 1420 E. Sprague Ave., said the completion can’t come too soon for him.

His business is a fraction of what it was when Sprague was open to traffic in front of his location.

“Last week, I recorded 10 customers,” and he is losing money, he said.

He opened in December 2013.

Before the closure, “We were doing fine,” Speight said. “We depend on traffic.”

He said he went to a popular nearby restaurant on Sprague a week ago and found only one other table of guests.

The city has put up directional signs for the businesses, indicating they are open, but it hasn’t been enough, Speight said.

He said an eastbound sign announcing the street closure at Sprague and Sherman Street is not helping, but only getting people to turn right and go to Third Avenue, even though there are two easy detour routes around the closure on Riverside and First avenues.

Julie Happy, city spokeswoman, said the Bennetts are not the only business in Spokane to suffer from at least two street closures for construction.

Rosauers at 14th Avenue and Lincoln Street and Huckleberry’s at 10th Avenue and Monroe Street were both affected by the two projects on the arterials serving the South Hill.

Last year, when work hit Monroe and Lincoln downtown, city officials asked residents to go out of their way to patronize the businesses that were boxed in by construction.

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