Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Ujima boosts restaurants

Business average to brisk during festival weekend

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Despite the sweltering heat and smaller-than-expected crowds for the Coors Light Jazz Festival and Ujima Cinci-Bration street party, business was brisk at some downtown restaurants and better than average at others, according to the restaurants' staff and managers.

        Festival guests accounted for only a small percentage of sales. But at least one restaurant worker said that's typical of most downtown festivals, including Taste of Cincinnati and Oktoberfest.

        “We're more of an event restaurant than a casual dining restaurant,” said Jim Corbett, manager at Jeff Ruby's at Seventh and Walnut streets. “Festivals are not really conducive for us.”

        But Mr. Corbett said the restaurant enjoyed “brisk business all weekend,” which he attributed primarily to softened traffic restrictions for Ujima and Coors Light. Last year, Jeff Ruby's and 13 other downtown restaurants closed during the festival weekend because, the owners said, they were afraid the city's extensive traffic-con trol measures would hurt access to their businesses.

        The closings fueled accusations of racism and protests against white restaurateurs who kept their doors open during the mostly white-attended Taste and Oktoberfest. Ujima and Coors Light attract mostly black crowds.

        Emily Papin, hostess and waitress at Rock Bottom Brewery on Fountain Square — also the target of protests last year for closing early — said the restaurant was “slightly busier” than it was last year during the festival weekend.

        Ms. Papin, who worked during the day Saturday and on Sunday night, said the dining room “wasn't super busy or super slow” for most of the weekend, except Sunday night.

        “We didn't get half the business we usually have on Sunday night,” she said. “But Sunday night isn't a good night anyway.”

        Andrew Perron, assistant manager at Morton's of Chicago in Tower Place, said the restaurant — which has never closed during Ujima or Coors Light — had another profitable festival weekend.

        “We happened to be busy, but we had some help with the cattle ranchers' convention being in town,” he said.


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