PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - The weekend Downtown Tunnel closure is taking a toll on Portsmouth's small businesses.
The westbound lanes from Norfolk to Portsmouth were closed Friday night until early Monday morning.
Business owners in Olde Towne hoped customers would find another way across the water, but it appears that did not happen.
"Saturday and Sunday are normally very busy days for us," said Rich Phillips, owner of Bowman's Garden Center.
At Bowman's business usually blooms on the weekends, but this past Saturday and Sunday, the place was dead.
"Normally our traffic flow during the weekend days is fairly nice," said Phillips. "This weekend we saw a drastic drop in numbers."
Phillips says sales were down more than 50 percent. He believes it is a direct result of the closure at the Downtown Tunnel.
"We really never had a chance to discuss it with our customers," he said.
Other small business owners said the same thing.
The well-known Sunday brunch at Brutti's had empty tables.
Sales at the family-owned Bier Garden on High Street were down at least one third. The owner says many of her weekend customers come from downtown Norfolk and Virginia Beach. But this week, the familiar faces didn't show.
"It's horrible; I'm starting a business here, starting a car dealership and I'm pissed off," said one driver. "That's what I think about that."
Other drivers said the inconvenience is enough to bring their trips down to a minimum.
"It's in the way," said Tyeashia Barnes, who has to cross the water to get to work. "It's making my 20 minute commute into 50 minutes."
A spokesperson for Elizabeth River Crossings says crews are working as quickly as possible, even finishing this weekend's work early.
ERC emphasizes the closure is for the safety of drivers.
WAVY.com asked business owners about that, too.
"When they say it's going to fall on you...haven't they been maintaining it for the past 20 years?" said Phillips.
Some business owners would like to see the eastbound lanes split into both directions during the closure. But so far, there are no plans for that.
There will be 24 more weekends of westbound closures. There could be fewer depending on how quickly the rehab work is completed.
Charges have been made in a domestic abuse investigation involving a 74-year-old woman in Elizabeth City.
Witnesses tell WAVY.com the attack of a shopper was the cause of a heavy police presence at the Ross department store at Military Circle in Norfolk Wednesday night.
Drivers traveling between Hatteras Island and the mainland were forced to use an emergency ferry Wednesday, following the sudden closure of the Bonner Bridge Tuesday.