Delaware: Small-business owners say state, CARES Act restrictions hinder recovery

Some point to fund ineligibility, 10 p.m. liquor-sales shutoff

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek
Frank Barickman checks the progress of brewing underway at Restoration Brew Worx, 25 N. Sandusky St. in Delaware. Barickman was one of several local merchants who on Oct. 21 told Delaware City Council that Ohio's 10 p.m. closing for liquor sales is causing financial losses for the businesses.

Some Delaware business owners say the latest round of federal relief funds to battle effects of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic won't do them any good.

Delaware City Council on Oct. 21 approved a $682,840 grant package to help local nonprofit organizations meet expenses associated with pandemic.

The money – part of the city's share of the third round of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act – will be used by some of the agencies to help the public with rent, utilities, food insecurity and medical and legal services.

More:Delaware looks to earmark $2.6M in pandemic relief

Other expenditures will cover promotion of the downtown to support local small businesses and marketing to aid businesses citywide. 

Several local business owners, however, spoke to council members, and four said restrictions in the CARES Act render it useless in providing relief to the problems they have suffered from the pandemic.

Those who spoke were Todd Daughenbau of Fresh Start Cafe & Bakery, 24 N. Sandusky St.; Margaret Taylor of Stop 42, 67 Lake St.; Frank Barickman of Restoration Brew Worx, 25 N. Sandusky St.; and Genti Koci of Opa Grill & Tavern, 18 S. Sandusky St.

Daughenbau and Taylor said the CARES Act funds can’t help merchants who have made sacrifices to keep rent and mortgages paid; such relief is available only to those who have made no payments. 

All four also objected to the state's ban on alcohol sales after 10 p.m. daily and the idea that the restriction is designed to limit COVID-19 spread.

Also objecting to the 10 p.m. limit were Joshua Moore of Roop Brothers Bar, 17 N Union St., and T.J. Wellman of the Flying Pig Ale House, 12 S. Sandusky St.

All said the limit hurts their businesses, and several said switching to an 11 p.m. or midnight shutoff wouldn't increase COVID risk.

"COVID doesn't wake up at 10 o'clock," Wellman said. 

The merchants blamed the 10 p.m. shutoff for hardships caused by lost income.

City attorney Natalia Harris, assistant city manager Kyle Krider and city economic-development directors Sean Hughes all confirmed CARES Act regulations prevent reimbursements.

Council member Kent Shafer said local business may apply for low-interest loan programs created by the city and Delaware County. 

"My concern is people of Delaware read the headlines and see (the city has) this grant program, and the city and county are offering loan programs, and they're going to think the small businesses are being taken care of,” Daughenbau said. “But the truth is this grant program is going to provide limited relief. And to be honest, both loan programs from the city and the county have some pretty high loan-origination fees."

State Sen. Andrew Brenner (19th District) told council bipartisan legislation – Senate Bill 374 – seeks to abolish the 10 p.m. liquor-sales shutoff, returning businesses to pre-pandemic sales hours.

He predicted Gov. Mike DeWine would veto the plan but that the Senate has enough votes to override a veto.

Under current conditions, Brenner said, the Ohio Restaurant Association predicts 54% of Ohio restaurants will be out of business next year.

"That would be an economic catastrophe," Brenner said.

Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle noted the 10 p.m. closing for liquor sales was enacted by the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and is scheduled to expire after 120 days. 

Brenner said if DeWine asks the division to extend the limit, the division will comply. 

Council's CARES Act ordinance includes these allocations:

• United Way of Delaware, $305,100 for rent and utilities, shelter and food insecurity, plus medical, legal and childhood support.

• Delaware City Schools, $177,000 for computer hardware and Internet connectivity for students' remote learning.

• Second Ward Community Initiative, $144,992 related to food, supplies, emergency funding and operating expenses.

• Pathways to Hope Program, Salvation Army, Bridges Community Action and People in Need, $140,000 for rent and utility assistance.

• Main Street Delaware, $30,748 for promotion.

• Delaware County Convention & Visitors Bureau, $25,000 for marketing.

• Hunger Alliance partners, $100,000 for food insecurity.

The city is left with a CARES Act balance of $145,881.

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