Broadway Mary’s owner Mary Fields was forced to wait at least two more weeks for $30,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding after two Lorain City Council members voted not to suspend the rules and approve legislation to free up the funds.
Councilman-at-Large Tony Dimacchia and Ward 1 Councilwoman Beth Henley both voted against suspending the rules to approve the resolution at the Council’s Jan. 3 meeting.
The city received $32,491,585 in American Rescue Plan Act funds and has used some of it to help businesses and nonprofits that suffered financially due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The decision by Dimacchia and Henley confused and frustrated some fellow Council members who believed Fields had provided more than enough evidence she needed the money to help keep her restaurant, located at 939 Broadway, afloat.
Fields applied for the funding through the city’s Building, Housing and Planning Department and it was that body that approved $30,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the restaurant based on a scoring matrix it developed to grade applications for the funding.
In addition to receiving approval from Building, Housing and Planning Department, the Council must approve a resolution approving the funding.
In recent months, Council has approved far in excess of $1 million in total in American Rescue Plan Act funding for other small businesses and nonprofits that suffered financially due to the pandemic.
But Fields, who applied for the grant under the name of Wow Foods LLC, is the only applicant who has received such scrutiny from the Council.
Broadway Mary’s was one of the few local eateries that remained open during the COVID-19 shutdown.
“I was thinking they were going to do the right thing and just vote for it to help a small business; actually, I’m shocked,” Fields said after the Council meeting.
Fields has said the money will be used to repair or replace damaged equipment.
She said the restaurant has limited freezer space and a damaged coffee maker.
The ceiling in the dining area also is in need of major repairs.
The Building, Housing and Planning Department approved Fields for $34,500, but the amount later was reduced to $30,000.
Prior to the vote and Council meeting, the Federal Programs Committee held a hearing in which Fields again explained why she needed the money and Council members had the chance to question Fields.
Ward 4 Councilman Dan Nutt spoke in support of Fields after the legislation was moved on to a second reading.
“I’m a little confused,” Nutt said. “I think the questions have been asked; I think they’ve been answered properly
“I feel like risking the future of an already operating business on Broadway when we are a pro-business pro-development … I guess I don’t understand that.”
Ward 6 Councilman Rey Carrion, who chairs the Federal Programs committee, noted that every other business and nonprofit that was approved initially for the federal funding through the Building, Housing and Planning Department scoring matrix received Council approval.
“If we are going to use the magnifying glass for one application, then we better be ready to do it for every single one that comes through this body, because to me, that is being fair and equitable,” Carrion said.
Henley and Dimacchia defended their votes to send the matter to a second reading while also addressing speculation they had personal issues with Fields.
“This has nothing to do with anything personal,” Henley said. “I still want a couple of answers before I vote yes or no.
“I know a lot of people go to her business; she has worked very hard … but I will not be chastised for doing what I think is my job,” Henley said
Dimacchia said he clearly understood the American Rescue Plan Act guidelines and supported the city’s program to award funding.
But, he said he was not going to support giving the funds to Broadway Mary’s.
“I’m not going to support it,” Dimacchia said. “I have my reasons. But I don’t have to justify it.”
Fields appeared distressed following the meeting.
Asked what her next move would be, she said she was considering just trying to raise the money on her own, or shut down the sit-down portion of her business and running a “ghost kitchen” which would allow for carry-out and other options such as DoorDash.
“I’m just trying to have a place for the community to enjoy,” Fields said.
The resolution is slated for a second reading Jan. 17, and a third and final reading at the Council’s first meeting in February.
It will need just a majority of the Council’s 11 members to vote to approve it.
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