Dining With Denise Neil

Downtown restaurants feeling the pain of construction on Douglas

Larkspur’s owners are dealing with a congested, dusty mess. But they know it will all be worth it, they say.
Larkspur’s owners are dealing with a congested, dusty mess. But they know it will all be worth it, they say. The Wichita Eagle

Things have gotten kind of crazy on the 800 block of East Douglas since the Eagle left and moved to new Old Town Square offices a little more than a month ago. And some of the restaurants we left behind (and now dearly miss) are feeling it.

Larkspur’s Shawna Sphar called last week asking me to assure people that the longtime restaurant, a favorite for business lunches and fancy downtown dinners, is indeed still open.

Business has suffered a bit in the past month, she said. The first issue is construction right in front of Larkspur on Douglas, which makes getting to the restaurant difficult. Orange cones are everywhere, and as the city works to expand the sidewalk, people are often just driving on past, seeing no clear path in to the parking areas, she said.

Another issue is the dust being kicked up by the demolition of the old Wichita Eagle building right across the street. Dining on the patio during lunch is nearly impossible at the moment, Sphar said, and after the crews quit for the evening, cleaning it up for dinner crowds is a major undertaking.

Meanwhile, The Beacon, the diner that sits next door to the Eagle demolition zone, also is having some issues. The owner hasn’t returned phone calls, but he did post a big “open during construction” outside the front of the restaurant. The Douglas construction has eliminated some of the Beacon’s precious few parking spaces, and those available on the west-facing side of the building now have construction fencing butting up against them, making backing cars out tricky.

Sphar said that the Larkspur’s owner, Ty Issa, is clear on the fact that all of the pain will be worth it. Once the fancy new Cargill headquarters open on the old Eagle lot in late 2018, around 800 potential diners will be working right across the street.

But getting there hasn’t been pleasant so far.

“We know you have to go through the bad for the good, and it’s going to eventually be great for us,” she said. “We just want to remind people that we’re still here and to stop in and see us.”