Dining With Denise Neil

Construction painful for restaurants on Douglas, will get worse before it gets better

One of the tastiest blocks on East Douglas is now one of the most torn up, and it’s about to get worse.

But all the inconveniences and slow weeks should be worth it when it’s all done, say owners of some restaurants near Douglas and Hydraulic, where customers should be enjoying sidewalk dining and drinking by this spring.

Robert McMullin, who owns Piatto Neapolitan Pizzeria at 1706 E. Douglas, said his business has been slow ever since city crews began tearing up the street in front of and near his building in the fall.

All of the orange cones, including some that temporarily blocked street parking in front of his restaurant, seemed to scare customers away.

“We’ve seen a pretty good size decrease in people coming in the door,” he said.

And it’s about to get worse.

Soon, crews will tear out the sidewalk that runs in front of both Piatto Pizzeria and Hopping Gnome Brewing Company next door.

But when it’s all done – likely by March – the sidewalk will be expanded and Piatto will be able to add fenced-in patio seating facing Douglas, which will add to the businesses’ curb appeal and customer appeal. Hopping Gnome also is looking into adding a Douglas-facing patio.

In the meantime, McMullin wants his customers to know that the large parking lot behind Piatto is open for parking. At the moment, the signs in the lot indicate that it’s reserved for M&M Insurance Associates employees, but the owner of that business has agreed to allow McMullin to add signage indicating that it’s open to Piatto customers, too. The insurance company closes for the day shortly after Piatto opens.

Creative parkers also can use the Jimmy’s Egg lot across the street, he said.

Next door at Hopping Gnome, where owners Stacy and Torrey Lattin have posted a sign in the window that reads, “Construction is here... grab a beer,” business has been steady through the road construction. But the sidewalk-destroying phase of the project will likely cause some issues, and Stacy said she expects a dip in sales.

Hopping Gnome does not have a back entrance like Piatto, so some kind of plywood bridge will have to be put down for customers to walk on. The brewery will have to remain closed when the new concrete is poured, Lattin said, but she’s hoping it will happen on a day when the business is usually closed or slower.

“We just continue to keep everyone updated on social media and are excited for the progress and the possibility of a front patio when the construction is completed,” she said.

Piatto is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Hopping Gnome is open from 3 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, from 3 p.m. to midnight Fridays, from noon to midnight Saturdays and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

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