A Black Hole for Business on Fort Ave.

| February 15, 2012 | 5 Comments

“The most frustrating thing is the thought of your business failing because of things out of your control,” Barracudas Owner William Hughes told SouthBMore.com.

So what is out of control for Barracudas and many of the other businesses in Locust Point?  A giant fracture in the road where the CSX train tracks pass under Fort Ave.  CSX is in the process of replacing this bridge which connects businesses like Barracudas and 5 Points Tavern to the majority of Locust Point.

Businesses west of the bridge replacement are losing all of their foot and vehicle traffic from eastern Locust Point, and business on the east side are losing all of their foot traffic from Riverside and SoBo.  “It reminds me of the days before the Bay Bridge when you had to go all of the way around Delaware to get to Ocean City or the Eastern Shore,” said Barracudas patron Joe Murphy in reference to Locust Point.  Now to get to most of Locust Point, you either have to take a U-turn around the Fort McHenry Tunnel or travel around Domino and Under Armour on Nicholson St. before connecting with Hull St.  As apparent by his barking and clawing at the car window, my dog can tell you very well that it takes a lot longer as we have to now use the detour to get to the Locust Point Dog Park.

City Limits also felt hardships when the bridge replacement knocked out gas in all of Locust Point for four days and forced all businesses to close. Owner of Locust Point’s City Limits, Ronnie Procheren, is fortunate however.  “Luckily our business has not been affected. We have increased traffic off of 95 and we can offer parking close to our bar,” he said.

While the road bridge has been an issue, the lack of a pedestrian bridge has really been crushing for Barracudas and 5 Points.  Torn down since November, the pedestrian bridge is scheduled to re-open on February 27th, but Hughes is not so sure. “Everything they have told us in this process has been a lie.  This is the first week I’ve seen them work in two months. They show up 10:30am and leave by 1pm – they never work!”  he said in reference to CSX’s contractor American Infrastructure.

Whenever the pedestrian bridge is safe for travel, Barracudas and 5 Points will be relieved.  Hughes projects that they have lost 30% of their business since the road bridge construction and 45-50% of his business since the pedestrian bridge has come down.  Brian Mastervich, owner of 5 Points, told SouthBMore.com they have also lost a third to half of their business.  “It is a double whammy. Not only are January and February slow months, but we have also been severely affected by the construction.”  5 Points relied on a lot of foot traffic coming back to Locust Point from Federal Hill, SoBo and Riverside and it won’t be until at least February 27th before they can reap those benefits again.

As far as the road bridge is concerned it is was originally supposed to be completed by June 1st, but with a two month delay because of a ruptured gas line and the lack of progress at the site, that looks highly unlikely at this point.

It’s the neighborhood and location that keep Hughes paying the mortgage at Barracudas.  “The neighborhood has been so great. People will drive all the way around just to get here and that really just shows a lot about the community.”  Barracudas and 5 Points will also benefit from 250 new apartments at McHenry Row which is within a few blocks of both. At this point, however, only about 40 units are occupied.  “If I can hang on, I have a great location,” said Hughes.

Hughes also wanted to thank Mary Colleen Bittner from the  Baltimore City Department of Transportation.  “She has been great for support, helped us put up additional signs and and responds quickly to everything.”

Barracudas, 5 Points and many of the businesses in Locust Point have really been dealt a bad hand, so I suggest that some of our neighbors show their support and build your own sandwich at 5 Points or try to fresh fish at Barracudas – they could really use the boost!

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.