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

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Posted at 10:21 PM, Feb 08, 2022

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Just around the corner from Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, you'll find Primo African Quisine at Second Street and Prospect Avenue.

Primo’s owner said the restaurant has only been open for a few months and All-Star Weekend has always been at the top of his mind.

“We wanted to show them that we have African restaurants,” said Charles Akogbeto. “We are the only one downtown here and we are the only one close to Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse also.”

Akogbeto said he was among the 87 applicants that requested extended liquor sales until 4 a.m. for NBA All-Star Weekend, but this week he was among the 80 applicants who were denied.

“We were disappointed because with COVID and business going slow we were thinking we could profit and make more money out of it,” said Akogbeto.

It was a different story nearly three years ago during the MLB all-star game.

City officials say about 240 establishments received approval for extended alcohol sales, and dozens also received approval during the 2016 Republican National Convention.

This year though, only seven hotels spread out between Downtown Cleveland and University Circle received the opportunity.

"For me, I think it's unfair. I think the mayor should’ve called the business owners and talked about it before making a decision,” said Akogbeto.

A spokesperson for Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb sent News 5 said in part:

“The City of Cleveland reviewed the 87 applications from businesses within city limits and weighed the economic benefit, desire to accommodate all who want to be part of the festivities and the City’s public safety needs. After careful consideration and discussion within Mayor Bibb’s cabinet and the COVID-19 Task Force, the City recommended only the seven applying hotels to the State of Ohio Division of Liquor Control for extended hours waiver approval during NBA All-Star Weekend. The decision will allow for optimal public safety throughout the city, while also accommodating the needs of players and visitors to enjoy a meal after the evening’s official NBA events.”

Click hereto view the full statement.

Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin sent News 5 a statement, Blaine said in part:

“I am disappointed over the announcement that local bars and restaurants will not receive approval for extended hours during the NBA All-Star Weekend.

I along with my colleagues in Leadership have shared our concerns with Mayor Bibb and his administration. He explained his decision making, which is the administration’s prerogative. The administration informed me and my colleagues that they had serious concerns about the health and safety of our residents, community stakeholders and visitors. We share those concerns. We talked with the administration about establishing long-term solutions so we will never have to be in this situation in the future and that we will continuously find ways to support our hospitality industry.

However, I believe in the people of Cleveland. I believe in our law enforcement. And yes, I believe in our businesses. Therefore, I’m extremely disappointed that we could not find a way to allow these bars and restaurants to have extended hours. Sixty received extended hours for the MLB All-Star Game and about 240 for the RNC. Although these events had different support from law enforcement the city still conducted these events in a safe and productive way”

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb released the following statement Wednesday regarding the decision:

Mayor Justin M. Bibb—with full support of the departments of Public Health, Public Safety and the Division of Police—stands by his decision to put the health and safety of Cleveland residents first.

"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."

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