Alcenia’s owner says convention center construction costing her money, customers

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It may be a sign of progress, but one small business owner says construction on the Renasant Convention Center is hitting her in the pocketbook.

Construction crews have been busy for months making $200 million upgrades to the downtown Memphis convention center.

But B.J. Tamayo, owner of soul food restaurant Alcenia’s, said the renovations have cost her business money she can’t get back. She said the city is responsible for her losses and is doing very little to help.

“I have lost over $40,000, according to my income statement,” Tamayo said.

She said the problem is that part of Main Street where Alcenia’s sits is now closed. Traffic is detoured around the construction work.

“It’s just like a construction zone,” Tamayo said. “If somebody is coming here that have never been here, if you look down this street, and you didn’t know a restaurant was down here because you see all the blockage and you see big cement trucks parked in the middle of the street waiting to go through, you would think its nothing down that way.”

She said now the parking in front of her business is taken up by construction workers’ vehicles, leaving almost no spaces for her customers.

“How many people have tried to get to me and say, ‘I am not going through this,'” Tamayo said.

T.J. Phelps stopped by Alcenia’s on Friday for lunch.

“It was very difficult to get in here,” he said. “They got it all fenced off. I was doing Google Maps, and so I went up like they told me to get here, and I was stuck. I am like, I was really close to not coming.”

Tamayo said she has gone to the city about the issue, but the only response was a few signs marking two parking spaces .

“The most cars (that) can park there if they are small is two, so I guess I am supposed to make it on two cars a day,” Tamayo said. “I want them to grant me funding to help for the loss of money this city has caused me.”

What worries Tamayo even more is if the construction goes past the summer, her business may not even survive. City officials sent WREG a statement saying they have bent over backwards to try to drive traffic to Tamayo’s business, including dedicating parking spaces and encouraging patronage of the establishment.

They said other businesses along the street seem to be doing well, and it’s unfortunate that none of the city’s efforts on the proprietor’s behalf are appreciated.

“Tthey want to tell me about other businesses, they are not blocked off,” Tamayo said. “The trolley comes by their business every single day.”

She also said her business is affected more because it the closest to the construction.

WREG asked the city if other businesses have ever been reimbursed for profits they lost because of city construction, and officials said they said they are checking.

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