Businesses on south side of downtown ask city for financial help in rebuilding

An organization that represents more than 200 businesses on the south side of downtown is calling for the city to pay for damage sustained by businesses during the weekend riots, saying that “a lack of leadership has encouraged looting and destruction of our city.”

The Stadium Village Business Association sent a letter to Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett on Tuesday morning outlining the property damage and asking for help to rebuild.

“We need for you to take back control of our city and implement a comprehensive plan and vision, rather than a day-to-day strategy that leaves businesses and citizens in the dark,” said the letter, signed by association president Erica Wells. “[We need] a plan that will diminish the riots and carry us through a week of peace and solidarity.”

In an accompanying email, Wells suggested the city abate all property taxes equal to the property damage that is not covered by insurance. She also called for a city plan that would prevent further vandalism and protect struggling businesses.

“The devastation and cost of recovery should be largely shouldered by the City for its ineptitude,” she said in the email.

The South Village Business Association covers a wide swath of the south side, from Washington Street to the north, Raymond Street to the south, Interstate 65 to the east, and White River to the west. Members include Shapiro’s Delicatessen, CityWay, Goldman Jewelry and the Indiana Railroad Co.

Taylor Schaffer, a spokesman for Hogsett, said city law enforcement has worked to protect lawful demonstrations as well as downtown businesses since the protests began.

“Unfortunately, despite the tireless work of state and local law enforcement, this weekend saw those peaceful protests overshadowed by the actions of individuals who embraced violence with tragic consequences,” Schaffer said in an email to IBJ. “Since then, we have taken historic steps to impose a countywide curfew that for two evenings has returned peace to our streets.”

Hogsett extended that curfew on Tuesday to another night.

She added: “These decisions aren’t made lightly, and we are in near-constant communication with event organizers, law enforcement officers and impacted communities in order to ensure we continue to make decisions that protect our community’s safety and well-being.”

A spokesman for Downtown Indy Inc., a private, not-for-profit organization that advocates for downtown organizations, said it is hearing from many downtown businesses about the vandalism, and is starting a series of downtown business owner forums to share security updates and gather information on damages.

“We are also walking the street of Downtown to check in personally with owners and managers to help shape our long-term recovery plan,” said Sherry Seiwert, the organization’s president and CEO. “We also thank City-County Council President Vop Osili in helping organize a group of volunteers to assist us yesterday with graffiti removal. Those wishing to further assist can sign up on our website at www.DowntownIndy.org where donations are also being accepted for the Downtown Indy Small Business Recovery Fund.”

Numerous businesses downtown and in surrounding areas were vandalized over the weekend. Thousands of people participated in protests downtown that later devolved into riots, with some people breaking windows and looting stores. Police fired pepper spray at some of the demonstrators.

The demonstrations took place in Indianapolis and many other cities across the U.S. in response to the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, who died May 25 after a Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Hogsett ordered 8 p.m. curfews on Sunday and Monday night. But the Stadium Village Business Association said Hogsett did too little, too late. The letter says Hogsett should have had a better protection plan in place Saturday night, when much of the destruction occurred.

Several well-known establishments in the business district, including the Slippery Noodle Inn, a blues nightclub on South Meridian Street, and the Whistle Stop Inn, a neighborhood pub on Illinois Street, were severely damaged, Wells told IBJ. Those two businesses did not answer phone calls from IBJ on Tuesday seeking more information.

Many downtown businesses are boarded up. Workers, contractors, and volunteers spent hours Monday scrubbing graffiti from buildings and monuments.

“Our downtown looks like a war zone,” Wells said in a phone interview. “I don’t feel like it’s helping our city at all. For four days, there has been no clear plan announced on how to deal with these demonstrations. I do fear for the city.”

She said many businesses, including restaurants, pubs, shops, and offices were already struggling to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic closed much of the city for more than two months.

“Now, with impending daily curfews and less than 24 hours’ notice, it makes it next to impossible for a restaurant or any other business to open its doors,” she said.

Councilor Kristin Jones, who represents District 16 on the near south side, said she understood the frustrations of business owners and others who were affected by unrest over the weekend.

“I’m committed to continuing to listen to all who want to speak,” she said in an email to IBJ. “I am meeting this afternoon with representatives from the business community to listen further to their concerns. I stand committed to working with our administration, law enforcement, and the business community as we move forward.”

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18 thoughts on “Businesses on south side of downtown ask city for financial help in rebuilding

  1. Any responsible business should have adequate and appropriate insurance for damages. Asking the government for money is just asking us taxpaying citizens to pay, and we’re already paying more than many can bear. Stop looking for handouts to cover your bad judgement in trying to skimp on your insurance. If you can’t pay your own way then close and make room for a better business person to open shop.

    1. Well then, expect a mass exodus of businesses from city centers on par with what went down in the 60s and 70s.

      If city businesses cannot expect a core level of protection, then there almost certainly won’t be any need to “make room for a better business person to open shop” because those businesses will go to the next jurisdiction that IS willing to protect them. Hello Carmel. Hello Plainfield.

    2. Then the right person to be mad at is the mayor – who caused this to happen through his ineptitude. Vote him out next time so the taxpayers are not burdened again by bad politicial decisions. When you vote for someone, you have to ask yourself: is this person going to be a good steward of our financial community and our budget, and how will I feel as a taxpayer if they make a bad decision that ends up costing the city hundreds of millions of $$?

      Seriously, that’s it.

  2. If they close and file bankruptcy those they owe may go under also. Most retail and restaurants have been closed for 2-3 months and no income. Insurance is NOT free. Even if their INS does pay, their premiums will go up. When the cost of doing business is higher than the profit, it can not survive. This weekend and this week’s lost income could be the final straw.

  3. I’d welcome any of these business owners to try to do the job our Mayor is faced with. Balancing the rights of our fellow citizens to protest a very bad situation with the need to protect our downtown businesses is very difficult. We have seen less damage here than most cities, probably because we gave people room to voice their concerns. Then we followed that with curfews and compassion. This seems to have worked. Sure, a few bad people destroyed some property. Three of my buildings were attacked. But it’s unfair to blame the government. We all have a role to play in solving this problem.

  4. Hogsett ordered 8 p.m. curfews on Sunday and Monday night. But the Stadium Village Business Association said Hogsett did too little, too late. The letter says Hogsett should have had a better protection plan in place Saturday night, when much of the destruction occurred.

    Instead Hogsett INVITED people to come downtown for a rally at 4pm on Saturday!! This shows a serious lack of good judgement. He should have been asking people to stay at home on Saturday night, and come at noon on Sunday if at all.

  5. How many years did it take to create the tremendous downtown in Indianapolis? Look how quickly the Democrats destroyed it. When the people didn’t pay attention, look what they got. Even the Republicans didn’t mind “Good ole Joe” being mayor. They didn’t back their candidate and look what Democrats have brought forth on the city. People have invested Billions in the city and look at the thanks they get. Maybe Joe and the City Council can take a knee or go march with the “protestors.” That should help.. shouldn’t it?

  6. Joseph W: I don’t know what you’ve been smokin but it’s time to change brands. We should be thankful there wasn’t more damage? If there would have proper preparation there would have been no damage. How much damage? 20-30M. Joe Hogsett is the Bill Deblasio of Indianapolis. The goodwill and work of generations has just gone up in smoke in one weekend. What an absolute shame

  7. I don’t blame the business owners and then to say no back bone Joe is doing his best is laughable. The city failed in one of it’s most basic principles, mayor Joe should be ashamed of himself.

  8. Question: If a county-wide curfew begins at 8 P.M. or 9 P.M., why are protesters still congregating past the official orders? So much for social-distancing…

    1. Kevin S, I agree so much for following the law. I see major resignations across the US from police forces. Getting no support from city officials.

  9. And whaddya’ bet Indianapolis elects another Democrat Mayor next time around?

    Virtually every destroyed downtown across the country has been that of a Democrat Mayor and a Democrat-controlled city council, mayors and councils worried more about protecting homosexuals from those vile Christian business owners who politely decline to genuflect to the “wonderfulness” of same-sex marriages than protecting ALL businesses from outright riots by the most lawless among us.

    You makes your bed and then you sleeps in it, Democrats and those who repeatedly vote for them.

  10. Holcomb and Hogsett failed to protect or prevent the destruction of DT businesses. They need to step up and right that wrong. These businesses are what makes DT Indy.

    I am sick and tired of hearing the political bashing. Blame the Democrats, blame the Republicans. Shut your face and vote for the best person for the job regardless of party affiliation.

  11. Hogsett told all law enforcement to stand down and let the protesters do what they wanted to do and bo ;aw enforcement was to stop them period. Hogsett should have to pay for all of the damage personally and then should be prosecuted and removed from office. This is why Fishers and Carmel mayors are paid a lot more than Hogsett, you get what you pay for

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