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Council members, state senator tour Limestone construction zone

Despite mud, gravel, loud noise from heavy equipment and a sprinkling of rain, government leaders trekked through a torn-up section of South Limestone Street on Thursday to get an idea of how a major street project is affecting area business owners.

Several of the owners told the officials they not only have lost a staggering amount of business, but that they have had to lay off employees as well. The owners noted that a tattoo shop already has moved from the area because of the project. Rip Sidhu, owner of the Bombay Brazier, said he was forced to close his restaurant for nine days, losing about $20,000 in business.

CD Central owner Steve Baron told eight Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council members, state Sen. Kathy Stein and other officials on hand for the walk-and-talk that he gets calls every day from people asking if his store is open.

"The hardest part has been the sidewalks for us," Robyn Wade of ReBelle told the group. There are days when there is no sidewalk access to her business, she said.

Steven Coffman, a partner in Oneness, a boutique, said he's not happy about having to mop the store twice a day because of all the dust.

Joe Graviss, owner of the McDonald's restaurant on South Limestone, said that when the project began two months ago, his business dropped 50 percent. Since University of Kentucky students are back in town, business is now down 30 percent, he said.

Wes Stephens, owner of the Tin Roof restaurant, said dirt kicked up by the construction work gets into the food he serves.

In short, the business owners told the officials that they want the construction work speeded up. They want the overhaul of South Limestone, between the Avenue of Champions and Vine Street, to be completed in time for the Sweet Sixteen high school basketball tournament in March, not in July, as planned.

Project manager George Milligan said the project is ahead of schedule and that extra workers were added recently.

Councilwoman Diane Lawless, who represents the area, said that while she supported the overhaul and beautification of the street, it should have been done after the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Central Kentucky. She said that, although the street project would still have been painful, the extra time would have allowed for more competitive bidding on the job.

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