Avon Lake groups grant $98,000 in coronavirus-related aid to city’s restaurants and bars

This article, written by Linda Gandee, originally appeared on Cleveland.com on April 26, 2020.

On March 15, Avon Lake’s Community Improvement Corp. (CIC) announced that it would step up to support the city’s restaurants and bars. By March 22, it had handed out funds to 12 businesses.

Now, the CIC has announced its partnership with the Avon Lake Waterfront Corp. (A.L. Waterfront) to provide $98,000 in grants to 25 recipients.

A.L. Waterfront is the group that has coordinated the hugely successful Avon Lake Waterfront Wine Festival in the summer.

Between CIC and A.L. Waterfront, each of the businesses funded received either $3,000 or $4,000.

“When the CIC created its emergency coronavirus grant program, they wanted funds in the hands of small businesses quickly,” said Avon Lake Economic Development Director Ted Esborn.

“They created an application, which the city posted on its website. (The first round) of 12 grant awards were sent out on March 22 — just one week after the CIC announced its intention of a program,” he said.

“I’ve never seen a group of people more motivated and energized by a cause than the CIC in response to this crisis,” Esborn said. “There are five volunteer residents of Avon Lake in this group, with young families, who mobilized as soon as they sensed that these businesses would be ordered to close. They announced their program just hours after Gov. (Mike) DeWine made the order.”

But the first round used up almost all of the CIC’s funds, Esborn said. Coming to the rescue was former city councilman Dan Bucci, who contacted A.L. Waterfront.

The organization offered a contribution that put the second round of grants on the same level as the first. Thirteen more restaurants and bars received grants, bringing the total emergency relief to a total of $98,000 for 25 Avon Lake businesses.

Final totals show that the CIC provided $74,000 and A.L Waterfront $24,000.

Gitta Sconitsch, owner of Gitta’s Table and Wine Shop on Lake Road, said she applied for the funds about a month ago. “I was approved for the grant, and the check came about 10 days later for $4,000. So, I thought I will reopen on May 6.”

She noted that her opening day will be takeout only.

“I will try to have more dinner specials and promote customers calling ahead or ordering online for pickup orders,” she said. “Curbside is OK, too. We will take (their order) out to their car, but some people will come in because I am also a wine shop.”

Sconitsch said she will ask people who come into the restaurant to wear a mask.

“I am very, very happy and very grateful,” she said. “The money allowed us to not be so freaked out and allowed us to participate in the flattening of the curve.”

James and Victoria Mowbray and Paul Kalberer own Parker’s Grille and Tavern on Walker Road. Their restaurant is currently open from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, featuring a takeout and delivery business.

“Ted Esborn let us know about the money available,” James Mowbray said. “We got the check a week later. We are very grateful. Avon Lake people are very loyal.”

Mowbray said he will use the money to assist with payroll. About 50 percent of his staff are still working, including servers, bartenders, cooks, dish washers and a sous chef, totaling about 17 people. He said once the coronavirus crisis is over, he will “absolutely” hire back the others.

“Our biggest thing is that we are very thankful for the city’s support,” he said. “And all of our guests with carryouts have been wonderful. It’s more than we could have imagined — just doing carryout. It’s been a wonderful thing to see. Kudos to the community.”

John Teel opened Big M Pizza on Lear Road only last December.

“It’s been pretty rough going,” he said.

But he remains optimistic, especially since the city approached him about the funding that was available.

“It was a way to help local businesses,” he said. “City hall has great people to work with. And the residents, too — it’s been really refreshing. They really made us feel welcome.”

Teel said his top priority in reopening will be to maintain quality. “We also hope to make up the revenue, but it will take a while. Hopefully, the (grant) money is enough to keep us afloat.”

Teel thanked the residents of Avon Lake “who are ordering regularly and supporting us through this. We hope to be a good neighbor for a long time. We hope they will enjoy our food, and we hope we can offer them a pleasant experience. Above all, we hope they will all remain safe and healthy.”


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