Bridge closure concerns owner
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
It might look like the folks at David's Catfish Restaurant have gone fishin' once construction begins on a new Indian Hills Road bridge, but owner David Gray said the restaurant will remain open despite the county's decision to close a major portion of the road leading Hartselle traffic to his business.
"I support the bridge replacement 100 percent," Gray said. "The bridge is dangerous and needs to be addressed, but I think a temporary bypass would have been a good solution instead of detouring so much traffic."
According to Morgan County Engineer Greg Bodley, about 1,183 motorists travel Indian Hills Road daily. The road will be closed between Bethel Road and Bluff Park subdivision for 60-80 working days. A temporary bypass will not be available. Construction is set to begin this week, weather permitting.
"A lot of people will be inconvenienced for awhile," Bodley said. "But they'll be happy in the long run."
Gray said the road closing will make it difficult for restaurant patrons and visitors to Roberts Catfish Farm from Hartselle to travel to the Roberts Catfish Road businesses. The road lies between Bethel Road and Bluff Park.
"My biggest concern is my employees," Gray said. "I want them to get plenty of hours and continue to have a sense of job security."
Employees at the restaurant have already seen a decrease in working hours. In anticipation of decreased business, Gray decided to close the restaurant on Mondays and Wednesdays, in addition to an established Tuesday closing. The restaurant is now open Thursday-Saturday, 4-9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
"I'm just trying to get ahead of the construction," Gray said. "We will also be making maps and fliers available to customers of alternate routes to the restaurant. Other than that, we're just going to hang on and see what happens."
Gray and his wife, Alicia, of Eva opened David's Catfish last October. It is the couple's first business venture. Gray said he has been in the restaurant business since he was old enough to work.
The restaurant was originally established by the Roberts family three decades ago.
"The community has been so supportive of us and the restaurant," Gray said. "Many people tell us nostalgic stories about eating here, having their first dates here, swimming and holding fish fries down by the water. Some people have even said they met their wives, who were waitresses, here years ago."
Gray said the community has been most supportive by holding class reunions, civic gatherings, church functions, family reunions and wedding rehearsal dinners at the family restaurant that seats private parties of up to 150 guests.
"Despite the construction, groups are continuing to book large events like this with us," Gray said. "I would be nave, though, not to worry about new and regular customers going somewhere more convenient."