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Construction caves in business for some La Jolla merchants

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San Diego Police Department officers detour thru-traffic around a closed-off section of Coast Boulevard on Monday, Aug. 19. They are supposed to allow access to patrons of Sunny Jim’s Cave Store, Brockton Villa Restaurant and Goldfish Point Cafe.
(COREY LEVITAN)

Construction to shore up a weak zone in a cave underneath Coast Boulevard has opened up a different kind of problem for businesses in the area at street level.

For Brockton Villa Restaurant, the Goldfish Point Café and Sunny Jim’s Cave Store, the traffic detour by the City around their section of Coast Boulevard (between Prospect Street and Scripps Park) has cut business by about half during what should be the year’s most robust sales period.

Police are allowing vehicles bound for any of these three businesses to turn right onto Coast from Prospect, where they can they can park at Sunny Jim’s or in the Coast Walk parking lot. However, on Sunday morning, Aug. 18, even this traffic trickle wasn’t being allowed through — or at least not consistently.

“I had a couple who told me they were turned away this morning,” said Goldfish Point Café owner Corey Bailey. “A little thing like this can mean a loss of 30 percent of sales.”

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Emergency work began Aug. 9 in the street across from Brockton Villa to reinforce Cook’s Crack and the roadway above it. It is expected to take six weeks to fix.

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Part of a concrete barrier is lifted by crane over the side of Coast Boulevard to temporarily dam the mouth of the Cook’s Crack Cave, which will then be filled with a slurry.
(COREY LEVITAN)

According to a City statement, geologists discovered a weakness zone in the sea cave known as Cook’s Crack, underneath Coast Boulevard, and recommended immediate action be taken to fix the problem. Kris McFadden, director of the City’s Transportation & Storm Water Department, explained that the City has been inspecting the area for more than 20 years, and only recently identified the weakness.

In any case, Brockton Villa co-owner David Heine said his business is down 46 percent overall. He said the construction “is almost like an attraction during the day, but at night, it’s just a big road block.

“The hardest thing for us is that we have 50 employees who have families, and some employees are putting themselves through school, and it’s really hard for them to have their hours cut. We’ve been struggling with what to do.”

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Retail stores typically carry business insurance to protect them against unexpected losses. But putting in a claim is not always an easy decision.

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Like other businesses interviewed by the Light, Sunny Jim’s Cave Store owner Shannon Smith — shown at the mouth of her cave near Cook’s Crack — said patronage is down by about half what it should be this time of year.

Two weeks before the Cook’s Crack closure, an uninsured driver hit a fire hydrant in front of Sunny Jim’s and flooded the tunnel down to the Cave, according to owner Shannon Smith.

“We closed the store for two days, which cost about $10,000,” she said. “I have a good relationship with my insurance company, and still they were like, ‘I don’t know if we should pay you out on that.’ They don’t really want you to use the insurance. It’s kind of sticky.”

Bailey said he would wait for “a few weekends of hard numbers” before talking to his insurance company. “Otherwise, it’s just speculation,” he said.

Heine said he will likely reach out to his insurance company, but also seek restitution from the City via its risk-assessment department. “It’s under a City street,” Heine said. “The road was built over a cave, so the City has some type of responsibility.”

When reached, a City spokesperson declined to comment, stating “our focus is on the current work being done to reinforce the cave underneath Coast Boulevard so that it continues to proceed safely and efficiently.”


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