Maria do Carmo Vieira is 70 years old and owns a small, typical Portuguese restaurant near Casa dos Bicos. The establishment has been closed since January due to the construction of an elevator in the Escadinhas de Portas do Mar, which was devastating for the company. “The only question I ask, and that I ask everyone, is whether they would come to my restaurant. Everyone says ‘no, I will not come here’, ”he laments. The courtyard and the hole in front of the door discourage any customer.
The works are in charge of the Municipal Parking Company of Lisbon (EMEL), which was also responsible for other elevators in the capital, such as the Chão do Loureiro. According to Carmo Vieira, the company has indicated the end of the year as the deadline to conclude the work.
The inhabitants of Santa Engrácia recover some places that EMEL was going to eliminate
“They say it’s at the end of the year, but I don’t believe it because of the condition he’s in. Even though it’s already at the end of the year, it’s practically a year without business. I love the restaurant, also because, as I usually say, my customers give me all the love I need, ”he says. The walls are covered with compliments and pen drawings, in languages ranging from Hebrew to Mandarin – many of its customers are foreigners. The restaurant opened three years ago, when Carmo Vieira decided to invest everything he had to open his own business.
Things changed in January. The street has always been narrow, but now the only crossing point is a small staircase that crosses the roughly three-meter-deep cesspool where the works are taking place. The work is slow and difficult, because it is not possible to use heavy machinery. And there were regular visits from archaeologists due to the possibility that there was something of historical interest in the excavations.
The constant noise, difficult access and the removal of restaurant signs make the business impossible. Most guests preferred the patio, but it will be a reminder of the past because once construction is complete there will be no more space for tables on the sidewalk. In addition to these setbacks, as it has been closed for so long, the restaurant suffered an attempted theft.
According to the owner, the municipal police paid a visit to the site and were ordered to file “a civil complaint against EMEL. “You don’t have clients here, and it is impossible to operate under these conditions. People don’t come here, ”they told him, proving the obvious. Carmo Vieira will even deal with the complaint, in particular because he emphasizes that he contacted EMEL in order to obtain compensation, but the request was refused. The owner says the company justified its decision on the basis that the restaurant will “benefit greatly from the lift” despite having been in the transaction for at least a year without any income. “One thing is covid-19, in which people charge a lot less. I could charge a third of what I charged. But the problem is that I do not charge anything, I do not even open it, ”he laments.
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To the PUBLIC, EMEL has just said that “he is aware of the inconvenience that works on public roads have caused, especially when they are inserted in urban areas as sensitive as it is the case of historic districts, and will analyze the question with due attention, as you mentioned in the response letter you sent to the person concerned ”. Vieira says that when he first contacted the company, he was told he had all the conditions to work. But EMEL employees themselves, who sometimes visit the site, contradict each other. “I ask them if they would come to my restaurant. They are silent, it is obvious that no one has come here. The other day there was one who admitted, “yes, it was difficult to come here” ”.
The case gained notoriety when CDS Lisboa posted a video on social media. In it, the deputy and adviser João Gonçalves Pereira insists on the fact that “the Lisbon Chamber and the EMEL itself, which carries out the works, have the obligation to compensate those who are harmed by the intervention” . The city councilor criticizes what he considers a situation of “lack of respect” on the part of the municipality and the company, believing that they ignore “the damage to the establishment caused by municipal work”.
Text edited by Ana Fernandes