Running into Café Firefly in downtown Algonquin for a quick cup of coffee in the morning still is as easy as ever.
But actually getting to the café, and then getting to work on time afterwards, is becoming a little more difficult for motorists now that construction on the western bypass project around downtown Algonquin has begun.
Café Firefly owner Wade Merritt said he noticed a decrease in his usual morning customers about a week after the construction in the area started. He can’t say for sure if the construction is causing the drop in business, but that’s what he thinks.
“It appears that during the morning rush hour, when people are getting delayed in traffic, it’s slowing up business a little bit,” he said. “I don’t know that you can absolutely attribute it to the construction, but that’s what I’m thinking.
“Usually they come in and it takes a couple of minutes and they’re in and they’re out,” he said. “A lot of the regulars that I have that come in have not been here as often.”
The business opens at 7 a.m., and stays open through the day until 8 p.m. Merritt said the morning rush is the only time he’s noticed a possible impact from the traffic.
Harry Canellos, owner of Dante's along Route 31 in Algonquin, said he's noticed a significant drop in his lunchtime business.
He said prior to the construction, every month his sales were up about six percent over the same period last year. Since construction began he's taken about a 10 percent hit.
"That substantial," he said.
The delays are inevitable as the $39 million project proceeds. The bypass is meant to relieve traffic congestion with a new four-lane two-mile stretch of roadway that will bypass downtown Algonquin.
“Overall, the village sees tremendous potential for the western bypass project to help make the downtown commercial area more pedestrian-friendly and vibrant,” said Ben Mason, senior planner for the village of Algonquin. “IDOT will assume control of the new Route 31 bypass road and Main Street will come under local jurisdiction allowing for a more walkable downtown once the heavy truck traffic is shifted onto the bypass.”
The new bypass is expected to open in summer 2014.
Algonquin is in the midst of a Downtown Algonquin Planning Study to evaluate what land use, economic development, access, circulation, open space, bike, pedestrian, and aesthetic improvement opportunities will exist downtown once the Western Bypass road project is completed, Mason said.
Officials are planning a public workshop on the issue on Nov. 28 at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 300 Jefferson St., Mason said. Business owners, residents and the general public are welcome to voice their opinions at the meeting.
For now, though, business owners and village officials want the public to know that downtown Algonquin is still open for business during this construction phase.
Mason said the Downtown Algonquin Partnership is organizing some promotions and activities to draw people downtown during construction, including an upcoming holiday-themed contest, which will be part of the village’s Holiday Rock on the Fox tree lighting in Riverfront Park on Saturday, December 1.
There also will be other events and advertising initiatives over the next few months to promote downtown Algonquin, Mason said.
Still, though, there is a long road ahead, where sales could continue to drop for area businesses.
For now, Merritt said, he just wants people to know that if they do make the effort to stop, he will do all he can to get them on their way quickly after they get their coffee.
“We’re here for them to do it fast,” he said.