Ohio City restaurant owner hoping for COVID relief from new Cuyahoga County grants

Posted at 9:04 PM, Dec 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-05 23:17:07-05

CLEVELAND — Cuyahoga County is extending its Small Business Stabilization Fund, a grant program aimed at supporting businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

County Executive Armond Budish said an additional $1.2 million “will be designated from the County’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) Funding for grants of up to $10,000 each to restaurants in Cuyahoga County for unpaid rent, utilities, and COVID-19 safety-related costs incurred from March 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.”

Karen Small, the chef and owner of Flying Fig in Ohio City, applied for the latest round of grant funding.

“It's been up and down,” said Small, regarding business at the Flying Fig over the course of the pandemic.

The restaurant shut down its indoor dining room to keep people safe.

“Overall, we're probably down 60%,” Small said. “While we had everything open outside it got us back within about 30% of what we typically did at this time of the year.”

But Small said now that the weather has turned colder and COVID-19 cases are surging, sales have dropped off even further.

“The takeout’s just going to have to support us at this point,” Small said.

And even though she took out loans from both the city and federal programs to stay afloat—that money doesn’t last forever.

“It's very scary to watch that go away and not be able to replace it, and just wondering where that bottom line is going to be at this point,” Small said.

Those problems so many restaurant owners are facing is why Cuyahoga County is adding an additional those extra dollars to its fund specifically for restaurants.

“Several restaurants that have applied for and received funding earlier on in the pandemic have exhausted their funding assistance. We are providing an additional $1.2 million in grant funding to help our restaurants catch up on unpaid rent and utilities and any COVID safety-related costs they’ve incurred,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish.

“The whole travel and tourism sector of our economy nationally and here in Cleveland has really been devastated,” said David Gilbert, CEO of Destination Cleveland, which is administering the grants. “For many of these small businesses, it may mean the difference between survival and not and whether or not they're still open when we're on the other side of it.

“It would be wonderful. Free money would be wonderful at this point,” Small said.

Small has applied for the county’s program twice now with no luck. She’s hoping this time will be different, for both the restaurant and her employees' sake.

“It will help me with rent, which is about $4,200 a month, which is not insignificant. And it will help me with payroll and utilities, just the basics. At this point it's just the basics,” Small said.

Applications for the grants are now open and will close Friday, Dec. 11 at 5 p.m. Grants will be awarded and given out shortly after that.

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

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