DOWNTOWN — He attended every transportation meeting on the Platt Street Bridge closure.
He had a special street sign created letting commuters know that even though the bridge was closing, his business wasn't.
He told Hillsborough County officials to move around some roadblocks so traffic wouldn't completely dry up near Zudars Deli, Catering & Baking Company.
Eric Weinstein, the deli's director of operations, seemed to do everything he could to make sure Zudars, just south of the bridge at 201 W Platt St., would survive the loss of an estimated 34,000 cars daily being rerouted away while the bridge undergoes repairs.
The drawbridge, which connects downtown to South Tampa and Davis Islands, closed for a $13.8-million repair project Oct. 3 and isn't scheduled to reopen until Jan. 16.
During the first week, Zudars — a South Tampa institution since 1959 — lost 30 percent of its usual business, he said.
This week business began picking back up, as Zudars resorted to a new meal delivery service for orders of $25 and up to create added revenue.
"It hasn't been a great thing," Weinstein said. "The timing of it has been very inconvenient."
Yet, not all businesses near the bridge have reason to complain, including the Publix next door to Zudars.
"Our customers are very loyal to their Publix and although it hasn't been easy to get there, business has been steady," spokeswoman Shannon Patten said this week. "At this time, the bridge closure has had very little impact on our business."
And at least one business north of the bridge closure has even welcomed the shutdown.
"We're happy with how things are," said David Mangione, general manager and partner of Hattricks sports bar at 107 S Franklin St.
While the rerouting has been inconvenient for some customers of the well-known hockey hangout to get to their favorite restaurant, many residents of nearby Harbour Island have no choice but to detour by Hattricks because of the bridge closure.
And that has led to new customers, Mangione said.
Transportation and city officials have urged commuters to use the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway instead of Bayshore and Kennedy boulevards or other common routes in and out of downtown.
Weinstein understands the need for the repairs of the 85-year-old structure but he wishes Hillsborough County had closed the bridge during the slower summer months instead of the holiday months. He also isn't ecstatic that Zudars' Platt Street block, just before the bridge, has been closed to everything but local traffic. Obstructing traffic to his business is an electronic board sign, a road closure sign and orange and white traffic barriers.
"Why don't you put up skull and crossbones and say stay away," he said.
He lobbied officials to get rid of the road closure sign and move the barriers just slightly enough to create a better opening that looks more inviting to customers. He also requested and received a blue "Zudars open for business" street sign posted near the roadblocks.
"Luckily we have a very loyal clientele, and they have found their way to our business," Weinstein said.
He wanted to gather all the businesses on the 200 block of Platt Street together to create a marketing campaign that told the public "We're all open for business!" But he soon realized that not everyone bemoaned the traffic hurdles.
Mangione, at Hattricks, empathizes with business neighbors who are suffering and agrees that the closure came at an inopportune time for some.
For instance, the bridge was closed during the Red Bull Flugtag event on Oct. 8, which drew 125,000 to the downtown area. If the project pushes a few days past its completion date, he fears it could cause problems for the Jan. 28 Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest.
But for him?
"Honestly, I think the night time has picked up a little bit," he said. "You just see new faces and you get kind of an idea why they're coming in here."
Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.