When a pipe burst in the kitchen of a downtown Franklin restaurant, the owners thought it was a good opportunity to temporarily close and finish some interior renovations and let contractors paid by a state grant finish exterior renovations.
A month has passed since then, and the exterior work on Don and Dona’s Restaurant hasn’t moved forward. What started as a chance to minimize the amount of time the restaurant needed to be closed for renovations is instead dragging on with no end in sight, owner Mary Barnaby said.
“The plan is to reopen. It’s just, I’m not sure when that’s going to be or how it’s going to come about,” Barnaby said.
The restaurant closed in anticipation of façade work starting, where workers will tear out the front of the building and restore the original columns and bricks underneath. Barnaby thinks the work would keep people from coming in for breakfast due to noise and concerns about their safety around the construction, she said. So the restaurant has remained closed, but little progress is being made.
The company, Advanced Restoration Contractors, was hired by Franklin as part of a downtown facade program partially funded by a state grant. Don and Dona’s is one of eight downtown businesses getting work done to their buildings as part of the program. Work at all of the downtown buildings has been slow because workers have worked about 160 hours since the fall, Franklin community development director Krista Linke said.
The deadline for the work at all the downtown buildings to be complete is March 31, but officials aren’t sure that is going to happen, Linke said.
For now, Barnaby is just waiting. Don and Dona’s is not closing forever, and the health department didn’t shut the restaurant down, which are two of the rumors her family has heard since the closing.
“We have no scope. We just received the third, final drawings a week ago, and we had no schedule and we never had a schedule. And they don’t call when they need to come over, and they don’t call when they’re going to take the awning off,” she said.
A water line broke in the kitchen on Dec. 17, which shut down the restaurant for the day. The downtown eatery decided to stay closed and start working on some interior repairs and remodeling in the kitchen and dining room while waiting for the façade work to start.
The façade work hasn’t started, and the restaurant is remaining closed for now in preparation for construction. Barnaby is disappointed that the contractor hired by the city hasn’t moved more quickly on the project because the contracts for the work on the restaurant and other downtown properties were approved in summer.
The business is losing money every day it remains closed, but she believes it would cost more to keep the restaurant open during construction if the work keeps customers away.
“If the people don’t feel comfortable coming in, we can’t make enough to cover our costs,” Barnaby said. “What hurts the most is the 25 or so people that work there, that hurts the most. Because that’s kind of what we’ve kept it open for. It’s never been a big moneymaker, but we’ve always put everything back into it because it is a community place.”
Residents have commented on posts to the restaurant’s Facebook page stating they are in withdrawal after having gone a month without breakfast specialties, such as biscuits and gravy. People around the city also have speculated about whether the restaurant will ever reopen or why it’s closed, which Barnaby dismissed as just talk.
“We’re checking all of our options at this time. Because of the front renovations, we can’t ask people to be coming in when (workers) just show up,” she said. “We just decided to take this opportunity to regroup.”