Friday, December 6, 1996
Cafe owner fights city hall

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Eight years ago, Pat Scully had his first run-in with urban renewal. Even though he wound up getting knocked down by a wrecking ball, he didn't complain.

But this time, he's decided, no more Mr. Nice Guy.

He's suing the city and his landlords, F&R Limited Partnership and Western-Southern Life Insurance. On his day in court, Dec. 13, he hopes to hold back the wrecker's ball so he can be compensated for his losses and take a stand for all small businesses in downtown.

In 1988, he felt his Scully's Sports Cafe was being leveled for the good of downtown development. It stood in the way of Fountain Square West, a new Lazarus store. And progress.

''So, I just tucked my tail between my legs, didn't say a word and went away.''

He moved a block west to the skywalk level of the Fifth & Race Tower.

He didn't take a dime from the city to relocate. The city didn't offer him a dime either.

''I spent $275,000 of my own money to move and remodel.''

Business was good. Scully's catered to conventioneers and hotel guests. Their business provided jobs for 30 employees and put $1 million in the till every year.

Then, urban renewal came calling again.

Yet another department store - McAlpin's - wanted to go where Scully's serves burgers and beers. His landlords planned to cancel his lease and evict the sports bar with no money changing hands.

This time Pat Scully chose to stand and fight City Hall.

Fighting mad

In April, the skywalk linking Scully's to Fountain Square was abruptly closed and torn down.

Pat Scully got mad, sued the city and Fountain Square West's developer. He won an out-of-court settlement. The skywalk was to be rebuilt. The bar was to be re-connected with the heart of downtown.

As an afterthought, his lawyer, Robert Manley, added a penalty clause. If the skywalk wasn't in place by Nov. 21, Pat Scully would be paid $1,000 every day its opening was delayed.

The pedestrian bridge over Race Street is still not up and might not be for months. So, every day Pat Scully gets another $1,000 to pay his legal bills in his fight with the city.

''Five years ago, I would have just started over at some other place downtown,'' he said. ''No more. I can't afford to set myself up for the same fall a third time. This is a grudge match to the end.''

Twenty-seven, hand-painted signs are tacked across Scully's entrance. From pieces of neon pink and taxi-cab yellow paper, they scream their defiant messages:

We won't be squeezed out. See you in court.

Give us $10 million, build us a new store, give us free rent and we might stay downtown.

We're mad as hell & won't take it anymore!!

Pat Scully wouldn't be so fighting mad if someone somewhere along the line had said: ''I'm sorry.''

Those magic words ''would have gone a long, long way.''

''But nobody in the city has ever said, 'This is for the good of Cincinnati. Please stay downtown. We're sorry.'

''The city only cares about big business,'' he added. ''Saks, McAlpin's and Lazarus get money to build new stores. When they put in these big new buildings, the little guys - whose candy stores, hat stores, shoe stores were wrecked - can't afford the higher rents.''

Downtown character

Pat Scully is one of the little guys. Scully's is not a franchised burger house or a chain brew pub such as the Rock Bottom Brewery on Fountain Square.

For Cincinnati's downtown to come back from the dead, it needs all of the Scully's it can get. These businesses give a city its distinct flavor.

You can't assume if you take care of the big stores, the small ones will follow.

And you can't treat the small ones with respect one day - give Scully's $1,000 a day for the business lost because of the skywalk's closing - then, the next day, let them be summarily thrown out of business to please a department store.

Every day, the city and its developers must remember to treat all businesses - big and small - for what they are: Equally important parts of the same puzzle.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.