Huntsville business suffering because of Church Street road closure

A portion of Church Street is closed for construction to widen the bridge across Pinhook Creek.

Posted: Jun 10, 2019 4:58 PM

A Huntsville road project is causing a hardship for a restaurant owner who said she's scaling back hours to save the business.

The majority of a widening project is happening right in front of Schnitzel Ranch Restaurant on Church Street. The restaurant's owner, Renja Schmitt, said she's struggling to make ends meet.

Schnitzel Ranch used to be open 6 days a week. Now, it's closed for 3 days and only open with limited hours. The owner said it's all due to construction.

"When you open the business for three and a half days, you still have the whole month of rent to pay. You still have the same insurance expenses. You still have so many expenses . They are just the same no matter how many days you are open," said Schmitt.

Renja Schmitt opened Schnitzel Ranch 11 years ago when she moved from Germany to Huntsville. She said the German guesthouse replica was doing great until May 28th.

That's when work on the Church Street improvement shifted, and crews closed the bridge across Pinhook Creek for widening.

Schmitt said she received a notice from the city stating what would be happening, and then the rest was history.

"You have employees who are really sad and almost crying, saying, 'I don't know what's going to happen Ms. Renja, but they closed the street and the next day we were cut off,'" said Schmitt.

A city spokesperson told WAAY 31 they did not anticipate any businesses being affected by the closure. They have placed signs up to let people know where the construction is happening and where Church Street businesses are located.

The city also left Cleveland Avenue open so people could drive toward Church Street, but Schmitt said this is where her customers get frustrated.

"They are not really clear on where you have to turn, where you have to drive around, and it depends on what side you come," she said.

Because of the road closure, Schmitt said she lost about 75% of her clientele, and it forced her to have to make some hard decisions.

"Now, after a second week, we had to make the decision to cut down the overhead and be open for only three and a half days, and we had to let people go," she said.

Schmitt said she is not looking to close her restaurant anytime soon, but hopes business will get better.

The bridge will be closed for three months. This construction is part of a larger plan, which includes straightening Pratt Avenue and adding sidewalks.

The entire project should be complete in fall of 2020.

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