Thursday, May 10, 2001

Riots scar Over-the-Rhine

Firms that aided poor among victims

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Broken glass, melted furniture and the lingering scent of smoke are painful reminders to Darrick Dansby of the looting and mayhem that devastated his Vine Street office a month ago.

        “We got hit hard. Really hard,” said Mr. Dansby, executive director of SmartMoney Community Services, a nonprofit that provides financial assistance and business training for the poor. “What the vandals didn't steal, they destroyed when they set the place on fire.”

[photo] Councilman Phil Heimlich talks with Joe Tucker of Tucker's Restaurant on Vine Street on Wednesday.
(Steven M. Herppich photos)
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        SmartMoney is just one of dozens of Over-the-Rhine businesses struggling to recover from days of violence triggered by the April 7 shooting of an unarmed African-American man by a Cincinnati cop.

        “These businesses are the forgotten victims of the riots,” said City Councilman Phil Heimlich, as he walked down Vine Street passing one boarded-up storefront after another Wednesday.

        “This is a community in crisis, and City Council's first priority should be and should have been putting money on the table to help these businesses rebuild.”

        Conservative damage estimates top $1 million, including lost revenues. And, with the suspension of money-making events like Pepsi Jammin' on Main, the losses are still mounting.

        Mr. Heimlich and representatives of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce toured the business district of the neighborhood most damaged by the riots. The purpose: To point out businesses that need immediate attention from City Hall to stay afloat.

        Mr. Heimlich said forming race commissions and creating summer jobs programs is fine, but the first priority for council and business leaders should be helping Over-the-Rhine businesses.

[photo] Judith Osborn and Chris Frutkin of Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce walk with Councilman Heimlich.
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        Mr. Heimlich said it's important for the city to show that it is serious about preserving order. How City Council reacts, he said, could have significant impact on whether businesses decided to move to Cincinnati.

        The city has already set aside $250,000 for grants to help shop owners rebuild. From that, individual businesses are eligible to receive about $2,000.

        There is also a $1 million loan fund available with low-interest rates and delayed payment options, Mr. Heimlich said.

        Mr. Dansby said $2,000 wouldn't begin to cover the estimated $50,000 in damage his business sustained. SmartMoney's insurance will not cover the entire loss.

        “A lot of these businesses down here were struggling to begin with,” he said, “and can't really afford to go in the hole any more” by taking out loans. “The city really needs to come up with more grant money or something that would allow businesses to recover damages and lost merchandise without going deeper in debt.”

        Leonard Weinstein, owner of Barr's Loan Office on Vine Street, said he almost decided not to reopen his pawn shop/music store. It was looted several times, and the cost of lost merchandise and damage totaled $200,000.

        “I thought long and hard about coming back,” he said. “Then I decided I wasn't going to let these vandals scare me or run me off. I've been here too long to be scared.”

        Mr. Weinstein said the only way he can save his business is through the city loan program.

        “I've worked 14 years to get out of debt,” Mr. Weinstein said. “It doesn't seem fair that I should have to go back in debt because the city made a mistake by pushing these rioters away from downtown and into Over-the-Rhine.”

        Mr. Heimlich said he supports allocating Community Development Block Grant money to a fund to help offset recovery costs for businesses. City Council on Wednesday voted 5-4 to refer that proposal to the finance committee.

City sued over shooting
- Riots scar Over-the-Rhine
Jammin' on Main canceled

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