Owners Of Hartford Restaurant Say Their Concerns Are Ignored
March 25, 2010
God bless those patient enough to try to do business in Hartford.
As if walking past crime scenes and chasing robbers out of his Park Street restaurant wasn't challenging enough, for the past couple of years the owner of Caridad has had to deal with the long abandoned and neglected Lyric Theater next door.
Jose Marin was angry when a city contractor working on the portion of the city-owned theater scheduled to be demolished this weekend cut his phone line — twice. That was great for business, thanks.
He was even less amused when he was told to remove garbage and debris from an alley he shares with the theater that he insists wasn't his.
But then Sunday, Marin says, he and customers heard a series of loud crashes from the back alley.
When Marin opened the door, he says, another city contractor was chucking huge slabs of concrete from the roof.
The contractor denies this. The slabs fell overnight, the contractor told me Wednesday. He was just brushing debris from the roof and securing the rest of the roof the best he could.
But Marin didn't buy it.
"That was the last straw," he said when I stopped by to talk to him and his wife, Inez. What if someone was out there? What if his daughter was out there? She sometimes plays out there, they said.
Marin says he was never told to stay out of the alley.
No way, city workers told me. Marin's been warned to stay clear of the alley several times. Licenses and Inspections Director Edison Silva insists his employees have responded to Marin's concerns. As soon as he heard about them, Silva said, he went out personally to see what he could do.
But Marin says they come out only to dismiss his complaints about rude contractors and to downplay the effect the dilapidated building and the impending demolition scheduled for this weekend is having on his business. And Silva got involved only after Marin called the press, Marin says.
Silva suspects that what really has Marin angry is the wheelchair ramp the city is pressing him to put up.
And maybe it is. At this point, this is one big "he said, they said."
But while talking to Marin it was clear that the one thing the restaurant owner was looking for was respect from the city in which he is struggling to make a life and a business.
This isn't just a project to the Marins — this is their life.
And even if Marin is as stubborn as the city and contractors suggested, I can see how all this could get a little old.
From the quick tour of the Lyric the contractor gave me Wednesday afternoon, it seems that the Broad Street portion of the neglected building should come down.
It's a pity. Preservation and neighborhood groups have fought to keep the city from demolishing it. They still are fighting — neighborhood groups planned to meet last night to discuss the future of the building. And yet here we are — about 48 hours away from another empty lot.
But another pity would be for the city to do anything to run more businesses out of Hartford.
Maybe Silva has a point about Marin. Maybe Silva and his employees have tried their best.
But this is a story we hear too often in the city — grievances ignored, complaints unanswered, businesses giving up.
Silva said he's assured Marin that he will respond to any future concerns.
"I don't know what more I can do," Silva said.
That's just it — I don't think Marin was ever asking for much more than that. It just should have happened earlier. And he really shouldn't have had to ask.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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