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.”
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