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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Months-Long Avondale Construction ‘Killing’ Belmont Businesses – Even Kuma’s Has Taken A Hit

"I don't how I'm going to pay rent this month," one small business owner said.

A months-long construction project in Avondale is crushing small businesses.
Block Club Chicago/Mina Bloom
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AVONDALE — Lately, business has dwindled at Kuma’s Corner — but it’s not because people suddenly decided they don’t like the metal bar’s iconic burgers.

A months-long construction project on Belmont Avenue is crushing Kuma’s at 2900 W. Belmont Ave. and other small businesses on the stretch during their busiest season.

“[The construction] has totally disrupted our business this far this summer,” owner Ron Cain wrote in an email.

For years, tourists and locals would wait hours for a chance to try the bar’s burgers. These days, you can walk right in and get a seat.

Cain said business is down at least 20 percent since early March, when construction began. “Lots of people are complaining” about the inaccessibility and the lack of parking in the area, he added.

Construction outside of Kuma’s. [Mina Bloom/ Block Club Chicago]

There are two projects running concurrently on an Avondale stretch of Belmont Avenue: People’s Gas is replacing the gas main from Sacramento to Kedzie avenues and the city is installing a new sewer line at Francisco Avenue, according to city spokeswoman Susan Hofer.

Hofer said the sewer project is slated to be completed by June 29. But the earliest the gas main project could end is Aug. 21, she said, adding that permits can be extended if the work isn’t completed.

For now, Belmont buses are being rerouted. The CTA is also planning to install fliers along the route. If construction lasts longer than anticipated, the city agency will update its website and fliers accordingly, according to CTA spokesman Jon Kaplan.

The timeline isn’t comforting to Cristian Ortiz, co-owner of cell phone repair shop Cellular M.A.P. One at 2857 W. Belmont Ave.

Ortiz said the shop used to draw at least 50 customers a day. Since construction began, the shop is now averaging just three customers per day, he said.

“I don’t how I’m going to pay rent this month,” Ortiz said.

The 33-year-old borrowed from his personal savings to make rent last month, and he anticipates he’ll have to do the same this month.

Cristian Ortiz said he’s been struggling to make ends meet since construction began. [Mina Bloom/Block Club Chicago]

Ortiz said he’s been forced to open later and close earlier. Last Saturday, the shop was only open from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. When the shop is open, Ortiz said he’s constantly fielding calls from customers who complain about the shop’s inaccessibility.

“[It’s] killing my business,” Ortiz said of the construction project.

Cain, the owner of Kuma’s, was recently forced to shut down his second location in Lakeview, Kuma’s Too, mainly because the rent increased significantly and the landlord would not budge, he said. But construction on Diversey Avenue was “the nail in the coffin,” he said.

“I recently received an email from Rahm Emanuel talking about how pro-business he is and yet I’ve got two city locations being adversely affected during the summertime (which is usually our busy time of the year),” Cain wrote.

“Better communication is definitely needed,” he added.