Cleveland Suspends Rent For West Side Market Vendors Through June

Shoppers walk between stalls at the West Side Market.
Cleveland will also restrict entrances and exits at the West Side Market to encourage social distancing. [Taylor Haggerty / ideastream]

The City of Cleveland is suspending rent payments for West Side Market vendors through June and implementing new social distancing guidelines.

The rent suspension, announced Tuesday, aims to alleviate the financial burden for vendors during the coronavirus pandemic.

DW Whitaker Meats announced last week it would close its stall through the month of April out of safety concerns. Even though the stall isn’t operating, owner Don Whitaker said the butcher shop will continue to make rent payments.

“Because the rents are suspended, they’re not going away,” he said.

Whitaker is approved for a federal Payment Protection Program loan through the Small Business Association, he said, and plans to use those funds to help cover those payments.

The city implemented new measures such as curbside pickup to reduce the amount of in-person contact at the market, but shoppers are still allowed inside for counter service.

“My staff and myself, we were putting a lot of hours in, and people would just coming up to the counter,” Whitaker said. “I just wanted to take back a couple weeks. We needed a little break anyway.”

DW Whitaker Meats is not the only stall that has opted to close amid the pandemic; Kate’s Fish also closed due to safety concerns.

“Sales were down, yes, but we certainly could have stayed open,” said owner Tom McIntyre. “It was a safety call.”

Kate’s Fish plans to open again May 1, McIntyre said, but the situation could still change.

“The rent’s not going to affect when we come back,” McIntyre said. “It’s a nice gesture on the part of the city. It doesn’t mean we won’t pay for it on the back end.”

Cleveland also announced new city-wide social distancing guidelines Tuesday, including limited entrances and exits to the market.

The city did not respond to requests for comment.

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