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Cleveland mayor cites public safety for denying extension of liquor sales during All Star Weekend

Business owners call it a missed opportunity
Justin Bibb
Posted at 5:57 PM, Feb 09, 2022

CLEVELAND — The debut of Kyler Smith’s new Warehouse District bar and restaurant, called FilteR, will coincide with the flood of visitors to Cleveland for the NBA All-Star Game.

“All-Star weekend is very key because, honestly, we can make a lot of profit,” Smith explained. “And from a branding perspective, it’s a way to introduce our restaurant to the country.”

The business owner, who also owns The Sauce Boiling Seafood Express, is among 87 who applied to the city to extend their liquor sales until 4 a.m. during All-Star weekend. Eighty of those applications, including Smith’s, were denied.

“The numbers, if you keep everything open, you could probably double your profit,” Smith said.

The seven approved applicants are all hotels. You can read the full list here.

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration cited public safety as the reason for granting extended hours for just seven applications. A statement sent to New 5 reads:

“Protecting the residents and visitors of Cleveland is our number one priority. After consulting with the departments of Public Safety, Public Health and the Division of Police, I made the decision to put the health and safety of our residents first. I know how tough the past two years have been on local businesses, especially the bars and restaurants. I understand the frustration of these businesses. I have and will continue to support them in their economic recovery along with the rest of the City, as we come out of the pandemic. However, this is a different time from the RNC and MLB All-Star game. The pandemic has had a significant impact on the City and its public safety forces. While we want people to enjoy themselves, we must lead by example and put safety first. Not extending the hours is the right decision and in the best interest of the residents of the city of Cleveland and our visitors.”

Later in the day, the mayor tweeted "This decision is about making sure we have adequate staffing to support this major event while also being responsive to our neighborhoods."

The administration said the city’s public health, public safety and police departments all support the decision. Business owners, like Smith, believe it’s a missed opportunity to grow Cleveland’s reputation as a tourist destination.

“When you go out of town, things are open late,” Smith said. “Now I think you kind of rob the tourists of maybe coming back to Cleveland. [They’ll be] saying, ‘Hey, OK, everything’s shut down early.’ You don’t know how that could affect us in the longterm.”

In a Wednesday morning press conference, state and local leaders touted the NBA All-Star Game as a boon for the economy. By early estimates, the weekend could bring tens of thousands of visitors and more than $100 million in direct spending to Cleveland.

“The vast majority of that will happen whether bars close at 2:30 or they close at 4. I think this was a balance of maximizing every penny that could be spent with public safety,” said David Gilbert, the president and CEO of Destination Cleveland, when asked about the city’s decision to limit the amount of bars allowed to stay open until 4 a.m.

Gilbert explained he was not part of the mayor’s decision making team on the matter, but understood the venues chosen would allow people working All-Star weekend events an opportunity to unwind after their shifts.

“I believe, not speaking for the mayor, the logic was there are going to be a lot of people—workers and many other—not going to parties at those places, but going back after they’re working, and so [the decision was about] making sure that they had places where they could eat,” he said.

This week, Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin expressed disappointment about not allowing more businesses to stay open later. Griffin told News 5 he shared his concerns with the administration about supporting the struggling hospitality industry.

Smith said the pandemic has been a hit for many businesses' bottom line,s and he hoped several extra hours of sales would help hit key financial goals.

“The timeframe of four in the morning was another key element that we really needed,” he said. “We’re coming out of a pandemic. Every dollar counts.”

During the Wednesday press conference, Len Komoroski, the CEO of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Rocket Mortgage Field House, said the NBA is intentionally investing in local businesses during All-Star Weekend. He explained the league is incentivizing visitors to shop and eat locally by offering opportunities to win tickets to All-Star events at certain businesses.

The weekend will also include a Black Business Expo Feb. 19-20 at Tower City, showcasing more than 200 black-owned businesses.

RELATED: Downtown Cleveland establishments frustrated after city only approves 7 hotels for extended liquor sales

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