Struggling downtown Louisville business owners send letters to Fischer amid pandemic, protests

Letters express concern about downtown Louisville's future amidst civil unrest and the lingering impact of the pandemic on downtown traffic.
Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 8:18 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - During the dog days of August, the crack of the baseball bat and the buzz of a mid-beer conversation are sounds many who frequent Against the Grain on Main Street are used to.

This August, the sound of silence has taken over the restaurant.

“It’s actually heartbreaking to walk in here and see it fallow,” owner Sam Cruz said.

For the past few weeks, Cruz has only gone to his restaurant to check on the walk-in freezer and to make sure the doors are locked. His business has been closed since July, amid the coronavirus pandemic and consistent protests in downtown Louisville.

“There’s no doubt that the capacity restrictions and our responsibility to our customers to protect them from the COVID issue has been the major player in this,” Cruz said. “The civil unrest, the protests, were ultimately the kick in the gut that made it not a worthy endeavor.”

After protests turned to riots one weekend in June, Cruz sent wrote a letter to Mayor Greg Fischer.

The letter reads:

”Mayor Fischer,

I hope my message finds you in good spirit. I know that these times are incredibly challenging. In fact I know so very well. As a Main St. business owner for nearly a decade, I have never seen such a challenge from an economical perspective, but also from a philosophical perspective. I consider myself a steward of this great city. I have invested my time and my livelihood in making sure it’s represented on both national and international stages with the quality and commitment to the products I produce, (as they represent this city and state) but also as a vocal advocate. I have lobbied my industry to bring festivals and business to this city, with hopes of expanding global awareness about how great it is and will continue to do so. It goes without saying that I care deeply for what is happening at this moment.

That said, I implore you to make some decisions with the values you have always exuded in regards to the civil unrest. The protests that are occurring, while extreme and disturbing in every right, are in response to a deviation from the ethos that we are a compassionate city. I believe we are. But not answering and avoiding the demands to arrest the officers that murdered Breonna Taylor are prolonging an unnecessarily dangerous situation. I support due process. I believe in the system. I believe in our city...But this needs to happen.

As a citizen, a Louisivillian, a Main Street business owner I am pleading.. Please do the right thing. The city is suffering, we are suffering.”

Since June, Cruz is not the only business owner to express concern. Through an open records request, WAVE 3 News obtained a dozen letters written by downtown Louisville business owners to the city, expressing concern about civil unrest and survival.

“What’s taking so long for justice?” Cruz asked. “Whether it be an officer arrested and arraigned or an officer arrested and let loose, what’s taking so long to let that system act? Why is it necessary we burn our city in the process of waiting?”

The letters got Rebecca Matheny’s attention, the executive director of Louisville Downtown Partnership. She told WAVE 3 News she was proud business owners spoke up and communicated their concerns. She said her organization is using that feedback to craft a downtown recovery plan.

“Our biggest job is to listen,” Matheny said. “We’ve had several versions of recovery plans, both before the unrest and currently, and we will continue to revise those and we will continue to use feedback from the business community. So the more feedback, truly the better.”

Cruz hopes he will be able to unlock the doors of his downtown location soon, and the city can heal together.

“Louisville is a beautiful place,” Cruz said. “It’s full of amazing people, and its soul is still good and there, but it’s hurting. And we need to start healing as soon as possible, so we can get back. "

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