What’s the hold up? Historic Cleveland bar hurting as Flats bridge project drags on

Published: May. 18, 2023 at 11:54 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A historic restaurant and bar is being hit hard economically by a bridge project that was supposed to last one year.

Now, a year and a half later, and the project still has a lot of work to be done. So, what’s the hold up?

19 News reached out to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and found out that the Center Street Bridge Preservation Project that began on January 1, 2022, likely won’t wrap up until the end of this summer.

The Flat Iron Cafe on Center Street and it’s workers said they feel like they are on an island all by themselves, and the $5 million bridge project is truly costing them.

Steve Guy is a bartender and server at The Flat Iron Cafe, “Our biggest problem is how it’s cut into our business her at The Flat Iron. This is one of the oldest bars in town that’s been here since 1910 and this bridge has been closed since January of 2022.”

The city’s oldest Irish bar said no one is communicating with them about what’s taking so long with the project that prevents car and foot traffic from using the Center Street bridge.

“From our perspective it just feels like nobody cares. I mean, this is a business that has sustained two world wars, our Great Depression, COVID, and then, coming out of COVID we’ve now had to deal with a bridge shut down for a year and a half which has us in peril,” they said.

The Flat Iron Cafe said Thursday’s are $1 beer night, but they’re not packed like they normally would be.

Even regular customers who are just across the bridge feel cut-off, because there’s no easy access, they said.

“We have lunch and dinner regulars that we haven’t seen in over a year. Because it was like a 60-second walk across the bridge,” Guy said.

But now, many who used to walk from their apartments or local businesses in the area would have to get in their car and take a 2 1/2 mile detour just to make it to the bar and restaurant.

Adding insult to injury, the Columbus Bridge at the other end of the street is also now closed to traffic.

But, what’s going to hurt this summer for The Flat Iron Cafe is they’ll miss out on all the concert goers at neighboring venues who stop by both before and after the events, “with Nautica and Jacobs Pavillion the concern season has just been a huge disappointment and really hurt us.”

Brent Kovacs with ODOT tells 19 News, “Due to the historical nature of the Center Street bridge, we want to do our due diligence to make sure it opens in good condition. The work that still needs to be done includes structural steel repairs, pouring the concrete driving surface, and painting the bridge.”

Workers at The Flat Iron Cafe tell 19 News they would to hear from ODOT and the city of Cleveland on the the project and how much longer the Center Street bridge is expected to be closed.

We are also working to find out if there is any type of compensation for businesses who are hurt economically because of projects out of their control.

19 News did put in a call to Councilman Kerry McCormack, and we are waiting to hear back.