Drivers seem to be getting used to finding ways around a closed block of Victoria Street in Kitchener, but businesses in the area are worried that those detours are keeping potential customers away.

CTV News surveyed eight businesses near the closure, asking them how things had been since the bridge closed in January.

All eight said they had seen business decline, with estimates ranging from 10 to 50 per cent drops over the same time period one year earlier.

“We’re still down, but I think it’s coming back up again,” said KW Surplus owner Ray Whiddemore. One of the more optimistic of the surveyed merchants, Whiddemore said the loss was noticeable as soon as the bridge closed, although he suspects at least some of the drop is due to poor weather.

Canadian Tire manager Simon Brookfield said there have only been a handful of days post-closure where his store recorded sales increases over the same day one year earlier. On average, he said, sales have been running about 13 per cent below 2017 levels.

“If people come to avoid the entire area, then that’s where we’re a little concerned,” he said.

Jeff Melnik says he didn’t see much of a difference in sales when the bridge was first closed. Instead, he says, customers started staying away from his Subshack restaurant the following week – when one of the on-ramps to the Conestoga Parkway and one of the off-ramps from the highway were shut.

Since then, he’s seen what he estimates as a 30 per cent drop in sales. He’s started working with food delivery services to try and make up for the losses, and plans to spend more on advertising.

“The delivery system, hopefully, will pick up some business for us,” he says.

Restaurants seem to be the businesses hit hardest by the bridge closure, with both Souvlaki Flame and Oscar’s estimating that their sales are running 50 per cent behind what they would have expected.

Closer to the closure, Pho Tran kitchen manager Tin Huynh says one customer has told him they have cut back from four visits a week to one because of the construction, while others have complained of the added time and difficulty in getting to the restaurant during the closure.

The Victoria Street bridge was demolished last month. A new, $18.7-million bridge will be built over the course of the next eight months. The work is part of advance preparations for the new Highway 7 freeway linking Kitchener and Guelph.

With reporting by Daryl Morris