LANTANA, Fla. - Hundreds of people came out to downtown Lantana to celebrate the grand opening of the Lantana Bridge Saturday.
The bridge was under construction for more than a year and a half, after the old Lantana Bridge was demolished.
Businesses on both sides of the Intracoastal are benefitting from more drivers.
Thaikyo in Manalapan had more patrons Saturday than the owner had seen in a long time. The Asian cuisine restaurant was fully seated, and wait staff was swamped.
"I see a lot of people that I haven't seen in two years, ever since the bridge closed. They said 'we'll see you when the bridge opens'," owner Jo Cheung said.
When the bridge was closed, Cheung said even regular customers weren't making the trip.
Customer Elizabeth Franchina used to go twice a week. "Everyone would get ready for dinner, and you'd say where should we go? Oh we want to go to Taiko. Oh it's going to take another 15-20 minutes. Maybe we should go someplace else," Franchina said.
Drive times increased drastically with the closing of the bridge. Customers lost their direct route across the Intracoastal. Cheung knew business would take a hit. "We we're going to lose a lot of business because a lot of patrons come from the other side of the bridge," Cheung worried.
Cheung had to start closing the restaurant on Mondays and during lunch over the summer, when business was too slow. "That was a big hit. We we struggling."
Thats why she joined in on the celebration Saturday for the opening of the new bridge. The new bridge is more pedestrian friendly, with wider lanes and a fishing pier below. " We survived it. Thank God," Cheung said. "We are so excited, I can't even explain," Said Franchina.
Patrons are now left with just one problem. "We're a little nervous that now we're not going to get a table," Franchina said.
The bridge was scheduled to open four months later, but construction was completed early.
Business owners say the timing is perfect to make travel to and from their businesses easier for seasonal residents heading down during the coming weeks.