NewsLocal NewsCleveland Metro


Coronavirus taking financial toll on businesses in Cleveland's popular East 4th Street district

Posted at 10:36 PM, Nov 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-21 23:28:02-05

CLEVELAND — The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially hard on local restaurants with many struggling to keep their doors open amid safety concerns and strict regulations.

This week, Michael Symon’s Lola Bistro shut down permanently. It was located in downtown Cleveland's East 4th Street district.

Pickwick & Frolic owner Nick Kostis spoke to News 5 about the challenges he and others are facing and what the future holds for the popular destination.

“4th Street was a kind of forgotten little bridge street,” Kostis said. “It was a seedy little street.”

But slowly and steadily, Kostis says East 4th Street underwent a complete transformation.

“It started taking on a life of its own. Eventually, it became fully occupied, all these little storefronts were filled,” Kostis said.

For twenty years, Pickwick & Frolic has been a staple on East 4th Street, but this year all that progress took a huge hit.

“Up until the corona, we had an active lively, vibrant little street,” Kostis said. “Downtown at this point is just a shadow of its former self.”

Kostis is now in a desperate financial situation, having had to cut his staff of 80 people down to 25 as people shy away from eating out.

“They feel apprehensive, they don't feel safe, and then add to that an advisory that heightens one's sensitivity about being in public anywhere,” Kostis said.

There’s also the significant decrease in events and activities to consider.

“East 4th Street, in particular, thrives off of the big event business,” said Michael Deemer the Executive Vice President for Business Development at Downtown Cleveland Alliance.

Deemer said the lack of games and shows at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Progressive Field and Playhouse Square has had a huge impact on downtown and especially East 4th Street.

But he said not all hope is lost, pointing to the organization’s third quarter market update which reports eight new businesses and more than 140 open overall.

“The foundation for downtown Cleveland remains very strong, we're continuing to grow our residential population, we're continuing to attract companies and add jobs,” Deemer said.

Deemer said the key to making sure East 4th Street and downtown stay strong is the residential population.

“We have a goal of trying to grow that population to 30,000 over the next 10 years. And I think that we need to double and triple down in that strategy of continuing to grow the residential base and working with our business owners to make sure that they're tailoring their businesses to meet the needs of residents,” Deemer said. “So perhaps we're not so reliant on the millions of visitors that come into downtown for ball games and concerts and big events.”

Until then, Kostis is just trying to hold on —making sure Pickwick & Frolic stays safe, clean and open.

“We need to continue providing and doing the things that create the standard that we meet every day, whether there's anybody here, or whether we're full,” Kostis said. “We are hopeful of what lies on the other end of this.”

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Rebound Northeast Ohio News 5's initiative to help people through the financial impact of the coronavirus by offering one place to go for information on everything available to help and how to access it. We're providing resources on:

Getting Back to Work - Learn about the latest job openings, how to file for benefits and succeed in the job market.

Making Ends Meet - Find help on topics from rent to food to new belt-tightening techniques.

Managing the Stress - Feeling isolated or frustrated? Learn ways to connect with people virtually, get counseling or manage your stress.

Doing What's Right - Keep track of the way people are spending your tax dollars and treating your community.

We're Open! Northeast Ohio is place created by News 5 to open us up to new ways of thinking, new ways of gathering and new ways of supporting each other.

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Ohio, a timeline of Governor Mike DeWine's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Northeast Ohio, and link to more information from the Ohio Department of Health, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, the CDC and the WHO.

See data visualizations showing the impact of coronavirus in Ohio, including county-by-county maps, charts showing the spread of the disease, and more.

The CDC and the Ohio Department of Health are now recommending the use of cloth face coverings in public to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Read more about the CDC's recommendation here. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make a face mask from common household materials, without having to know how to sew.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.