Downtown businesses frustrated with city approving 7 hotels for extended liquor sales

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Just around the corner from Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, you’ll find Primo African Quisine at Second Street and Prospect Avenue.

Primo’s owner said the restaurant has only been open for a few months and All-Star weekend has always been his focus.

“We wanted to show them that we have African restaurants,” said Charles Akogbeto. “We are the only downtown here and we are also the only one near Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.”

Akogbeto said he was among 87 candidates who requested extended liquor sales until 4 a.m. for NBA All-Star Weekend, but this week he was among 80 candidates who have been refused.

“We were disappointed because with COVID and business slowing down, we thought we could take advantage of it and make more money out of it,” Akogbeto said.

It was a different story nearly three years ago during the MLB All-Star Game.

City officials say about 240 establishments received approval for extended liquor sales, and dozens also received approval during the 2016 Republican National Convention.

This year, however, only seven hotels spread between downtown Cleveland and University Circle had the opportunity.

“To me, I think it’s unfair. I think the mayor should have called the business owners and talked about it before making a decision,” Akogbeto said.

A spokesperson for Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb sent News 5 in part:

“The City of Cleveland reviewed the 87 applications from businesses within the city limits and weighed the economic benefits, the desire to welcome everyone who wants to be part of the festivities, and the city’s public safety needs. After extensive review and discussion within Mayor Bibb’s cabinet and the COVID-19 task force, the city has recommended only the seven candidate hotels for the Ohio State Liquor Control Division for approval of the extended hours waiver during NBA All-Star Weekend. The decision will allow for optimal public safety throughout the city, while meeting the needs of players and visitors to enjoy a meal after official NBA evening events.

Click here to see the full statement.

Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin sent a statement to News 5, Blaine said in part:

“I am disappointed with the announcement that local bars and restaurants will not be receiving approval for extended hours during NBA All-Star Weekend.

Along with my leadership colleagues, I have shared our concerns with Mayor Bibb and his administration. He explained his decision-making, which is the prerogative of the administration. The administration has informed me and my colleagues that they have serious concerns regarding the health and safety of our residents, community stakeholders and visitors. We share these concerns. We have been talking with the administration about putting in place long term solutions so that we never have to find ourselves in this situation in the future and that we continuously find ways to support our hospitality industry.

However, I believe in the people of Cleveland. I believe in our law enforcement. And yes, I believe in our jobs. Therefore, I am extremely disappointed that we have not been able to find a way to allow these bars and restaurants to have extended opening hours. Sixty received extended hours for the MLB All-Star Game and about 240 for the RNC. Although these events received different support from law enforcement, the city still conducted these events in a safe and productive manner”

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