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Wacker Project Stalling Business

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There are plenty of tables available at Emil's, a restaurant in the Wacker Drive construction zone. (CBS)

There are plenty of tables available at Emil’s, a restaurant in the Wacker Drive construction zone. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Construction along Upper Wacker Drive may be annoying to commuters, but eventually drivers get used to it. But what if you had to work around the area?

There are lots of fences and barricades and confusion for anyone on foot. And, as CBS 2’s Jim Williams explains, business used to be booming.

At Emil’s Restaurant, they still have the fresh fish daily but they’re not serving it to as many diners.

The massive reconstruction of Wacker Drive is good for an aging street but has cut Emil’s business by 35 percent, owner John Boutzarelos says.

“We’re kind of closed in,” he said.

Waitress Terry Greco has had two days cut from her work week.

“I have a mortgage to pay, and obviously it affects that and my other bills, too,” she said.

The sidewalk — once jammed with pedestrians at the lunch hour — now has only a few.

That loss of traffic has hurt other businesses on Wacker, too — especially the small ones.

“There are a few big players on the block, but the small, independent business owner really struggles through times like this,” owner Milena Peyovich of FASTSIGNS said.

She has lost customers. Yet, ironically, she’s picked up others: fellow business owners who need signs announcing they’re still open.

“I’m thankful for the business, but on the same hand, they’re in the same boat as I am, and I really don’t want to take their money because I know that they’re suffering too,” Peyovich said.

The entire construction project is scheduled to be finished December 2012.

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