CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) – Many downtown Akron businesses have found themselves working to overcome yet another obstacle in the fallout of the police-involved shooting of 25-year-old Jayland Walker that has impacted their ability to meet their minimum sales requirements.
In at least the past four years business owners say there has been a major construction project in and around South Main Street that kept customers away, and then COVID hit. At that time, a number of restaurants and bars were forced to shut down for a time.
Now unrest due to the police shooting controversy, leading to several prior curfews throughout the city, has introduced another major challenge for downtown businesses.
“I don’t think anybody has a reason to be afraid right now,” Allison Palunes, an employee at 69 Taps Pub and Eatery, said. “But, people are definitely staying away from the area, and so sales aren’t even close to what they used to be.”
Palunes and others say the struggle is real for downtown businesses forced to shut down early when curfews were imposed.
Some businesses also had windows broken, allegedly at the hands of protesters, and other businesses boarded up their windows as a precaution, making customers question whether the businesses were actually even open.
“People kind of avoided the area because it just looks like it’s unsafe. It’s rough right now for businesses,” according to Palunes.
Hehgaymoo Brow at the Boiling House Restaurant in Akron says their business had finally recovered from huge losses suffered during the construction and because of COVID, but now, they say recent unrest in the city has customers shying away again.
“We opened back up. We recovered and then the protests and the curfews happened, and then our windows got broken, and during that period the last couple of weeks, it’s been so slow. Extremely slow.”
Da’Shika Street, the owner of Street Craftery, told 19 News she finally took down the boards that were protecting the windows at her business and while she understands the protests and frustration in the Jayland Walker investigation, she was not prepared to open a new business on July 1, only to close it temporarily one day later as a precaution.
“Just recently we decided no more,” Street said. “We’re going to create a space for people to come, we’re going to show that downtown Akron is a safe space and that Street Craftery is a space where people from all backgrounds, all walks of life, can gather and have fun. .”
One way some local businesses feel the city can step up, is to encourage or sponsor more events like the Akron Rubber Ducks game where people were willing to wait in line for hours for a bobblehead giveaway.
“The events that go on down here with the ball game and the Civic Theater do attract more customers,” Brow said.
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