Curfew, Protests Put Squeeze on Businesses

Taxi driver Dave Drake sat in his cab outside a downtown hotel reading a book. There was little else for him to do.

Three days of violent protests and a citywide curfew in the wake of the shooting death of a black man by a white police officer have made customers scarce and put the pinch on Drake and others who count on daily income to survive.

"I'm going broke," Drake said Friday. "I doubt if I'm going to have my cab after today. I'm not going to be able to pay my lease."

Drake pays $275 a week to lease the cab and must also pay for gasoline. He usually is able to recover expenses during the week and make his profits on the weekend.

"That's gone now," he said. "I'm probably going to be out of a job by the end of the day."

A week of turmoil has taken a bite out of the bottom line for businesses all over the city. The curfew was imposed Thursday after violence was sparked by the shooting of 19-year-old Timothy Thomas, who was wanted for multiple misdemeanors. He became the fourth black man killed by Cincinnati police since November.

Some downtown shops, restaurants and bars have closed their doors temporarily. Others have been shutting down early because of the curfew.

Concerts and sporting events have also been affected. Friday's hockey game between the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks and Norfolk Scope was moved from Cincinnati to Norfolk. And the kickoff in Cincinnati of the first national tour of 14-year-old rapper Lil' Bow Wow was postponed until May 15.

Reservations were canceled for about 300 of the 400 rooms booked for the weekend at the Regal Cincinnati Hotel. The Maisonette restaurant, a downtown landmark, closed for the weekend and sent its perishable food to a shelter in northern Kentucky.

Beverly McKee, assistant manager at Papa John's Pizza downtown, said their busiest times usually are at night, but the curfew is forcing them to close at 8 p.m.

"We're going to miss quite a bit of business," she said.

Businesses in the low-income Over-the-Rhine neighborhood -- where the protests began -- have been hardest hit.

Marge Hammelrath, director of the Over-the-Rhine Foundation, sighed as she walked the streets Friday and watched business owners board up broken windows. Hammelrath's group has been working to revitalize the neighborhood, and she acknowledged the violence was a setback.

"Oh God. I can't begin to tell you how bad," she said.

Hammelrath said some shops and boutiques in the neighborhood may not survive.

"I can't imagine that everybody will be able to make it, but I do think that the spirit is here, that everybody is going to try," she said.

Inside St. Teresa's Textile Trove, bolts of brightly colored fabrics were stacked to the ceiling. Worker Frances Kenney cut fabric because the store was empty of customers.

"Normally, it's pretty much wall-to-wall people," she said.

Mayor Charles Luken said he is very concerned.

"I worry that some of our communities will get scarred and all the work and the money we've put into our neighborhoods will be lost," Luken said. "They've struggled for decades and they have a long way to go."