DETROIT (WWJ) – Just about everyone is excited for the September opening of the new Little Caesars Arena downtown. However, one business owner in the shadows of District Detroit has some concerns about his future.
The bar at the corner of Clifford and Henry streets has been in business since the 1940s, operating the past 25 years as Harry’s Detroit. It’s owned by Harry Kefalonitis, a third-generation Detroit bar owner.
“My father’s bar, Verdi Bar, was on 44 Sibley, right under center ice,” Kefalonitis said, referring to the new 20,000-seat venue the Detroit Red Wings and Pistons will soon call home. “When this area was down and out, I maintained a presence here because I just loved — you know, I grew up here, I was born at Harper Hospital, went to Wayne State — my whole life has been here.”
While Kefalonitis is excited about what the new arena means for downtown businesses, he’s not sure how much longer his doors will stay open if construction continues as planned.
“This stadium and the development, we’ve been very supportive and very excited about it but this traffic pattern, the way they have it set up is detrimental to our business,” Kefalonitis told WWJ’s Mike Campbell.
He says the new arena will be directing traffic for its parking garage right past his bar, causing a chokepoint and making it impossible for patrons to get into or out of his business. Instead of using Cass Avenue to get to Henry, Kefalonitis said the arena is going to direct traffic down Clifford and onto Henry, essentially blocking his business.
Arena operators have a right to do what they’re doing, and Kefalonitis know this. But he says they are being a bad neighbor.
“Surely you can do better than to trample all over a business that’s been there for 25 years,” he said. “And knowing that we’re here, you make your traffic pattern to chokepoint around the small business? It’s really inconsiderate and a little shocking, knowing that they got public monies for this. Some of those are my tax dollars and they’re using them against me.”
Kefalonitis says he’s tried to meet with arena officials but has had no luck. WWJ’s attempts to reach a spokesperson have also not been returned.
The Detroit City Council has even expressed concerns about the potential challenges the traffic pattern could pose to Kefalonitis’ business. Arena attorneys were recently at a council meeting where councilman George Cushingberry confronted and questioned them over Kefalonitis’ concerns, but they didn’t really reply.
Kefalonitis says it’s hard not to wonder if he’s being squeezed out and retaliated against for not selling his bar and getting out of the way.
“You know, the project is so big, it’s hard to say,” he admitted. “It does feel like it though.”
Either way, he’s not going to stop pushing for his right to continue to do business. And for now, Kefalonitis is going to do what Detroiters always do: Keep moving forward and hope for the best.