HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – A South Florida business that has survived for 62 years has hit a major roadblock, and there is some concern it may not be able to keep the doors open.
"Business has been down 25-30 percent," said Thomas Franco, owner of Villa Rose Pizza in Hollywood. "My regular customers are complaining, and they tell me if there is no parking, they just keep driving."
The Florida Department of Transportation recently widened State Road 7 in southern Broward County and placed a curb directly in front of Villa Rose.
That curb prohibits customers from using the eight parking spots in front of the pizzeria.
Franco said he does have a small lot to the north of the restaurant, but no one knows it's his parking because the city of Hollywood made him take his sign down.
Villa Rose is likely one of the oldest pizzerias in Broward. It opened between Taft and Johnson streets on State Road 7 in 1957.
"You could always park in front, always," Franco said.
In an email to Local 10 News, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Transportation said the change was done for safety reasons.
"Due to insufficient amount of space in front of this business, vehicles would be backing out directly into State Road 7 traffic," FDOT Public Information Director Barbara Kelleher said.
The speed limit in that area is 45 mph.
"They don't want any more back-out traffic, but in reality, all 441 is back-out traffic," Franco said.
He is correct.
Local 10 News investigator Jeff Weinsier spent an afternoon in the area and found that vehicles backing out onto the busy road is the norm.
There are mostly automotive repair shops and restaurants in the area.
A state website that tracks crashes shows only two accidents in the area of Villa Rose from January 2016 to May 2019.
The same thing happened at Tony the Pizza Chef II, which is located down the street.
The Florida Department of Transportation also placed a curb there when they widened State Road 7.
Tony's lost spots, including its only handicapped spot.
"I called, and they said, 'We are going to work on it and see what we can do.' But then nothing," said Naim Shabani, owner of Tony the Pizza Chef II.
Kelleher said they worked with each business owner and the plans should be no surprise to anyone.
"In September 2012, F.D.O.T. notified the Villa Rose property owner, through their legal counsel, that we would not be acquiring any portion of the Villa Rose property for the State Road 7 widening project," Kelleher said. "They were also informed that the parking in front of their building along State Road 7 was partially located in existing state-owned right of way and that the street-side parking would be eliminated for safety reasons."
But the question remains: How long can Villa Rose survive after such a huge slice has been taken from the pie?
"I am worried that we are going to wind up closing," Villa Rose manager Kristy Bassford said.
"I had to lay off employees because I just don't have the business I used to have," Franco added.