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Business Owners In Cleveland Question Curfew Restrictions

Michael Kaplan at the Glass Bubble Project in Ohio City, where he's run a studio and classes for 22 years. [Matthew Richmond / ideastream]
Michael Kaplan, owner of the Glass Bubble Project in Ohio City.

Business owners in Downtown Cleveland and Ohio City are raising concerns about whether a lengthy lockdown in the aftermath of Saturday’s protest against the death of George Floyd is necessary.

Just off of West 25 th Street in Ohio City, Michael Kaplan had the doors of the Glass Bubble Project, his glass studio and shop, open on Monday morning while all the other businesses on this usually busy commercial strip were closed.

“I’m an artist, so where else would I go?” Kaplan said.

He lives about a mile away and said he saw no signs of the property damage that marked the protests in Downtown Cleveland.

“I heard that there were 40 people gathered peacefully at the corner of Lorain and West 25 th last night,” Kaplan said. “There’s nothing going on up here.”

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson instituted a curfew starting Saturday at 8:00 p.m. in response to the destruction of public and private property during the protest downtown. The main commercial district in Ohio City, from West 25 th to West 28 th Street between Detroit and Lorain avenues, was added to the curfew Sunday night and will last until Tuesday at 8:00 p.m.

On Monday morning, there were police blockades at the western entrances of the Detroit-Superior and Hope Memorial Bridges into downtown. The usually busy corridor between the bridges was empty except for police officers who stopped everyone passing by and residents permitted to enter the area.

Jersey barriers block cars from entering Downtown Cleveland via the Detroit-Superior Bridge. [Matt Richmond / ideastream]

Kaplan said he had no idea about the curfew in Ohio City before Monday morning. There were no notices from authorities or local merchant organizations.

“I didn’t even know about it until somebody called me this morning and said, ‘Are you going to drive to work this morning? Because I don’t think you can.’” Kaplan said. “This is real life. I don’t know if you can prepare for anything like this.”

According to a statement from the city on Sunday night, the protests led to the arrests of 65 adults and one juvenile. There were two building fires, 10 vehicles, including four police cars, were burned and 20 people were taken to the hospital.

Jackson did not give a specific reason for extending the curfew into Ohio City.

Horizontal Books in Ohio City was one of the shops closed Monday.

“We’re back to the old COVID situation where we’re not allowed to go to work,” co-owner David Kallevig said, “and customers aren’t allowed to come to us.”

His business was shuttered because of the stay-at-home order until late May.

Kallevig isn’t worried about his business surviving, he said, because people will still want to come through and purchase books once the curfew is lifted. He’s more concerned about the issues raised by the protesters.

“What saddens me is that we have to resort to curfews and lockdowns and shutdowns, instead of actually listening to what people have to say and making changes where they’re needed,” he said.

Downtown Curfew Continues

Business owners in Downtown Cleveland also don’t have access to their buildings, even if they were damaged in the Saturday protests. Downtown was like a ghost town Monday morning, with office workers ordered to stay away. The only people out were police officers and a few residents.

Damage to Colossal Cupcakes caused by protesters Saturday evening. [Timothy Dubravetz / ideastream]

Colossal Cupcakes on Euclid Avenue at the 5th Street Arcade was heavily damaged by the events. The damage was assessed and some cleanup began this weekend, said owner Kelly Kandah. But because of the curfew, she said, she can’t move forward with much of that work.

“We have to get big materials out. It’s not like we can just sweep and throw it away,” she said. “We’re just waiting to be able to get dumpsters and stuff down here.”

The damage to the store will require professional cleaning and repairs, Kandah said, estimating a few weeks for renovations.

“People have reached out wanting to help, and it’s just not even a safe space for me to have anyone except a professional company come in and handle it,” Kandah said. “There’s so much glass and damage everywhere.”

Kandah will work to get Colossal Cupcakes back in operation as quickly as possible, she said, and a new location on Cleveland’s West Side is coming along.

“Property is property, and I do have insurance, but that only covers so much,” she said. “This is something that I look at, and it is a loss.”

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.