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Cleveland restaurant owners complain after not being granted permission to serve alcohol late during NBA All-Star weekend

"This is our Super Bowl. We don’t have a dome stadium over there. There’s no way we shouldn’t capitalize to the fullest on this."

CLEVELAND — NBA All-Star weekend here in Cleveland is less than two weeks out. Many downtown restaurants were looking to cash in on the out of town crowds, some even applying to stay open extra hours. 

But the city has denied their applications. 

"This is our Super Bowl. We don’t have a dome stadium over there. There’s no way we shouldn’t capitalize to the fullest on this," says Brian Gresham, managing partner at Anejo on the Flats East Bank.

Anejo was one of 87 establishments that applied for a special extended hours waiver to cash in on All-Star weekend and stay open serving alcohol until 4 a.m. Of the 87, 80 were denied by the city of Cleveland. Just seven hotels were given approval by the city, a decision restaurant owners don't agree with.

"We circled on the calendar this date. This was the date that was going to bring us back," adds Gresham. "Now you come and say something that would help us, they say 'ahhhh, safety reasons we can’t do this we hope you understand.' I don’t understand!"

On Tuesday, the city said that public safety surrounding COVID-19 is the reason behind the decision to only approve hotels. They cited a increase in case numbers, even though cases are trending downward. 

“This is a different time from the RNC and MLB All-Star. We are in the midst of a pandemic that has had a significant impact on the City and it’s public safety protective services. While we want people to enjoy themselves, we must lead by example when asking citizens to enjoy themselves with caution,” said Police Chief Wayne Drummond in a statement to 3News.

Gresham, whose business is already allowed to operate until 2:30 a.m., believes the city just isn't prepared. "We pay taxes here as a business for our police force and the things that the city provides. They can’t pull it off. Don’t tell me we can’t pull it off. You can’t pull it off. And that’s a shame," he says.

The Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) echoed Gresham's position, saying several businesses are disappointed considering they've already been beaten down for the last 23 months. 

"If we don’t take care of these businesses and support them, they’re not going to be there, says John Barker of the ORA. "We’ve lost 3,150 restaurants in the state of Ohio. And if you look at downtown Cleveland, we’ve lost some restaurants right? And we just don’t want to lose anymore."

But for Gresham, the damage is already done. He's been forced to cancel events and refund deposits. He'll also have to inform the extra staff he was bringing in that they're no longer needed. 

"This administration and this mayor. They need to rethink this," Gresham adds.

Businesses like Anejo had reason to believe they'd be able to stay open late. More than 200 were given the extended hours waiver during the 2016 Republican National Convention. 73 of 74 businesses that applied were allowed to keep their doors open late during the 2019 MLB All-Star Game. 

Some businesses are already considering legal action.

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