It was a rough start to the week for bars and restaurants near the site of the I-95 bridge collapse in Tacony, with disruptions impeding customers and employees alike.
“It was a nightmare,” Billie Jo Grady said about her morning commute to Curran’s Irish Inn, where she works as a bartender.
Her drive to work from New Jersey usually takes 22 minutes, she said. On Monday morning, it took over an hour — for what could be a very slow shift.
“I don’t know how business is going to be [today],” Grady said. Sunday night saw a regular crowd, but that was before Monday’s sudden closure of several neighborhood streets, she said.
“All the side streets to get to here are blocked,” she said, including Longshore Avenue, where Curran’s stands. “I don’t know why they’re doing it.”
Road closures left Debbie Betten of Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse feeling similarly stuck. The owner and manager told Billy Penn her staff had great difficulty making their way to the barbeque spot on 7500 State Rd., a few blocks north of where the fire occurred.
“We had to close three hours early [on Sunday] because we had no business,” Betten said.
Police officers at the intersection of State Road and Rhawn Street on Monday morning assured her they’d let through any customers who said they were going to her establishment, she said, but then some of her own employees were turned away. She’s careful not to place blame.
“Nobody really knows how to handle the situation yet, [they’re] trying to figure it all out, we get it,” Bettan said. “It’s hard for us because we don’t know what to tell our customers or our staff.”
Social media posts on Monday morning with info about being open and directions around the limited road access seem to have worked, as business began to pick up again by afternoon.
“They’re slowly figuring things out,” Betten said of the city’s efforts to deal with the disaster.
At Maggie’s Waterfront Cafe, located a few miles up I-95, employees were waiting to see whether the road closures would impact their weekly Monday noon deliveries of kitchen supplies.
The popular riverside spot had already seen a dip in business.
“Lunch was completely dead, which is not usual for a Sunday lunch,” server Jackie Sweeney told Billy Penn late Monday morning, “At this point we’d have a significant more amount of people than we do now,” she said.
Beyond keeping customers, employees, and deliveries from coming in, the collapse and subsequent closures were also making it difficult for neighborhood establishments to get their food out.
Michelle F., an employee at delivery and takeout spot Mister Chubby’s on State Road, said the closures were “affecting our deliveries and people getting here,” before rushing off the phone to figure out how to fulfill orders to “customers we can’t get to.”
By afternoon, the situation at Curran’s Irish Inn had not improved.
“It’s been extremely slow today,” said bartender Grady, reiterating her confusion over the closure of side streets. Unlike at Sweet Lucy’s, she hadn’t seen officers present to let potential customers through.
Things were looking slightly better at Maggie’s, where staff confirmed the week’s delivery had thankfully arrived on time.
“It’s picked up a little,” server Sunny McGrath told Billy Penn, noting the afternoon’s rainy forecast. “But not much.”