WITH the festive season around the corner and an influx of visitors expected, frustrated Port Elizabeth business owners affected by road construction for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system are angry they will not be cashing in. Construction on busy roads such as Beach Road, Heugh Road, Harrower Road, Govan Mbeki Avenue and Kempston Road has put a damper on businesses, which say they are facing a bleak Christmas.

One business in Heugh Road, Walmer, was forced to close a few weeks ago, while others are battling to break even, with some reporting a drop of about 40% in sales. Werner Venter, manager of Save-A-Lot in Heugh Road, said day-to-day takings had dropped by at least 30% to 40% since construction on the busy road started. “The fact is that there are no walk-in customers except for the few regulars.“We have specials that we advertised, but we’ve had customers phoning us to ask how they can get in because the road is closed. The people can’t get to us. “One business down the road selling pots and water features had to close down three weeks ago because the owner relied heavily on walk- in customers.

“Financially, we are really down and the only way we’re able to cover for the stock is by making deliveries. The cash from walk-ins is not there. I really don’t know how we’re going to pay the overhead expenses for December,” said Venter. CL Middleton Walmer Pharmacy, also in Heugh Road, is also feeling the pinch from the roadworks. Owner Edwin Ellis said: “The construction has definitely affected trade. In September, sales were down by 10%, as well as in October. I’m not yet sure about November. This is the time of the year when we’re supposed to increase turnover.

“Between 4pm and 6pm, we relied heavily on passing trade, but now it’s non-existent because people are using alternative routes. “The dust from the roadworks is unbelievable. We have to clean the shelves all the time and we can’t close the doors because that will chase away the few customers who do come,” said Ellis. Guido’s pizza parlour manager Jean de Villiers said business was so bad that they were down to a quarter of their usual turnover. “We are on the corner of Heugh Road and Third Avenue, so there’s no traffic passing us at all. With rent going up and lights and water, I don’t know how we’re going to pay our overheads.

“During the festive season we usually do better, but I don’t know so much about this December.” Construction on the S- bend in Beach Road, Humewood, is also causing major vehicle congestion at weekends and is expected to lead to even further chaos during the festive season. But Nelson Mandela Bay municipal spokesman Luncedo Njezula said the R8,9-million project would be complete by December 15, before the official Opening of the Season on December 16. Njezula said the municipality was “engaging” with the affected businesses in Heugh Road. “As far as I know, there is no discussion around compensation as yet, but the municipality is interacting with businesses constantly and trying to fast-track the process,” he said.

“We expected to complete construction in the area by May next year, but at the rate at which it’s going, we’ll be done by March or April.” Njezula assured residents that the beaches would be ready in time for the festive season, despite reports of rocks and other debris washing up at Pollok Beach in Summerstrand. “We are not going to remove the rocks, because it is a natural process. “We have to wait for the sand to build up so that the rocks can be covered,” Njezula said.