Excerpt from Crain’s Cleveland Article. Read full article here: crainscleveland.com.

June 07, 2020 04:00 AM

Downtown Cleveland retailers express support for protesters, concerns about the city center’s ability to rebound

“HFLA of Northeast Ohio, a nonprofit lender based in Beachwood, quickly rolled out a disaster relief loan program for businesses that sustained riot damage. Companies can apply for interest-free loans of up to $10,000 to cover immediate costs while an insurance claim is pending or to pay expenses including deductibles.

Michal Marcus, executive director of the 116-year-old organization, said HFLA typically works with clients who can’t get conventional loans. Most downtown retailers don’t meet that metric. In this case, though, HFLA wanted to make sure small businesses that already are struggling had swift access to funds so vandalism doesn’t lead to more vacancy.

“Ground-floor establishments suffered the most, and they were the ones that were already suffering,” said Joe Roman, CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership. “That tandem of experiences, I think, is going to result in a very long rebuild for downtown. Hopefully, we can figure out a way to provide financial assistance.”

At the end of 2019, downtown’s retail vacancy rate was just over 11%, according to the CBRE Group Inc. real estate brokerage. That figure doesn’t account, though, for dozens of empty storefronts that aren’t being marketed because they’re earmarked for eventual redevelopment. This year, a few large restaurants have closed, largely due to financial woes that predated the pandemic.

Some businesses, including Zanzibar, which already had a robust takeout and delivery operation, managed to stay open during March and April. Others returned in mid-May, only to shut down again as a result of the riot and a city-imposed curfew that required a near-lockdown of downtown for the first half of last week.

‘This is definitely going to be a major, major setback,” said Dominic Fanelli, owner of the Chocolate Bar restaurant on Euclid Avenue. “I think everybody’s going 24 hours at a time.'”

Excerpt from Crain’s Cleveland Article. Read full article here: crainscleveland.com.