Portrush traders hit by closure of town's biggest car park ahead of Open
Traders in Portrush have been hit hard by the closure of one the town's biggest car parks ahead of golf's Open Championship.
The car park in Dunluce Avenue, which has 240 spaces, is being refurbished ahead of the event which takes place in July.
Part of the car park has been unavailable since November but a full closure was implemented last week to allow further work to take place.
The work has been taking place at the same time as the £5.5m redevelopment of the town's train station.
William McKittrick, owner of the Panky Doos café on Eglinton Street, told the BBC he has lost hundreds of customers as a result of the car park closures.
"I have elderly customers and customers in wheelchairs who have cancelled bookings, maybe afternoon tea bookings, who are scared saying we can't get car parking in the town," he said.
"Between my first winter here and my second winter I saw an increase of nearly 60% and this winter I've seen a decrease of almost the same figure.
"It's a small business so I cannot soak up that kind of loss," he added.
"The only thing I can foresee is either struggling on the way we are, basically paying guys when I can get money or we have to close it down. It is as simple as that."
Knox McCantley, the owner of the Spar supermarket and Mauds ice cream parlour, told the BBC: "We are seeing a steady drop off, probably upwards of 20% down on last year and it's heading the wrong way from here on with the complete closure of the car park," he said.
Mr McCantley said he would normally had people on days trips, parking their cars and walking past the shop.
"We are not seeing any of that," he added.
The business owners called for rate relief to be extended to businesses affected by the car park closure.
It is understood the work on the car park had to go ahead because of health and safety concerns.
Richard Baker, director of leisure and development at Causeway Coast and Glens Council, told the BBC the Open Championship would provide long term benefits to the town.
"We want to make sure Portrush is not just fit for purpose but really exceeds the expectations of all the visitors coming to the area," he said.
"The programme requires that car park to be closed for seven weeks.
"It will be closed for that seven-week period but we've got to understand there's alternative car parking provided 200 metres away.
"We are also doing this work during probably the quietest period of the year, which is January and February, so I think the disruption is minimal."
Belfast Telegraph Digital