April 1st, 2016

roldo 160331

[Updated on 19 April at 1900. Jeff Applebaum took exception to this piece and provided additional information to Roldo. You can read the entire exchange at $11-MILLION RESTAURANT DISPUTED BY COUNTY. JH]

Do you think downtown Cleveland needs another new upscale restaurant?

Do you think downtown Cleveland needs two more new fancy bars?

Do you think Cuyahoga County taxpayers should pay for the new restaurants and bars?

Well, guess what? You ARE going to pay for them!

The new Hilton hotel—County financed—will come with two new restaurants-bars.

The “Reformed” (biggest joke in years) Cuyahoga County government will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in construction and interest for a hotel that will lose money. The County, via the Port Authority bonds (allowing the dodge of federal taxes too), will borrow $256,864,057.75. Of this, $1,243,318 goes to pay the money people who draw up the documents. Finance guys always take a cut.

We have Gilded Age politicians here. Weak. Bought off.

And YOU will pay for it all. EVERY PENNY. With your sales tax. Regressive, of course.

(These eateries are reminiscent of Gateway where taxpayers paid $5,155,893 for the Terrace Club at then Jacobs Field and $2,370,134 for Sammy’s at the Arena, run by former Gateway board member Denise Fugo. All food revenue, however, goes to team owners, then and now. Officials are still pouring more tax money into these sports venues).

And new, Pulitzer Prize winning Plain Dealer editor George Rodrigue spent his Sunday column writing about comics! The Plain Dealer looks away from these sordid deals. Shamelessly pathetic. Ethically shady.

Here’s what the new foodie places are costing us:

  • Lobby bar: $1,081,766. (It’s called Eliot’s.) That’s more than a million dollars if you didn’t notice.
  • Skybar: $1,764,208. (This is on the 32nd floor called Bar 32. Clever.) It’s more than a million, too.
  • Here’s how Hilton describes your experience to come:

    Bar 32—32 floors above the skyline with direct views of the splashing waves of Lake Erie and the Cityscape is our one of a kind Bar 32. Craft drinks, a raw bar, and domestic and imported artisan cheeses are available to delight our guests. Our goal is to take your breath away with the stunning views, high-style bar menu, and showy drink selection.

    And you taxpayer will pay for every stunning view. You can enjoy the view if you can afford the prices.

  • Restaurant: $2,429,448, or $10,000 a seat. (This is the main restaurant, the Burnham, a two-level, three meals a day and full service). That costs more than two million dollars if you’re reading fast.
  • And here is how Hilton advertises the restaurant you bought for them:

    Our three-meal-a-day restaurant will be a showcase to one of Cleveland’s most prominent and popular chefs. His regional American cuisine will reflect the uniqueness of the three levels of our 224-seat restaurant, modernly designed around the all-glass window views. On the upper level, our culinary team will surprise our guests with a fine-dining experience encompassed around the world of flavors. On the lower glass-front level viewing the courtyard and Zen Garden, guests will be introduced to a more casual version of the chef’s Specialties. Then, our casual menu will overflow into what will be everyone’s favorite area: our expansive outdoor patio, shaded by cantilever umbrellas. A private dining room will also be available for special reserved events.

    Nothing is too good.

    Of course, restaurants and bars have to have furniture, fixtures and equipment. And operating supplies—forks, spoons, dishes.

    Our county officials have graciously supplied them.

    In addition to the costs cited above that total $5,275,422, we must add the cost of outfitting these county subsidized eat and drink outlets with all the accoutrements for service.

    So add the costs for furniture, fixtures and equipment a total of $3,477,936. Everything nice and new. Plush for sure.

    For costs of operating supplies and other equipment another $2,543,896.

    That adds another $6,021,832.

    So what do we have—public subsidized eateries at a cost to Cuyahoga County taxpayers of $11,297,254. Again, that’s 11 million dollars.

    If this isn’t outrageous I don’t know what is.

    And they wonder why the American public is angry. Wonder why government is seen as oppressive to ordinary people.

    We have children here aplenty in Cleveland and suburbs that don’t have enough to eat. Can’t make a solid dinner.

    Yet the new reformed Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and the Cuyahoga County Commission can easily accommodate those who can afford the prices at these highly subsidized restaurants. And Mayor Frank Jackson joined in too. These are mostly our Democratic politicians. Pathetically absent.

    Let’s look at some of the splash we are giving these spaces:

    Tile: $185,000; miscellaneous ornamental iron and canopies: $222,487; Snow melt (?): $50,000; Portal: $143,314; Revised site entry: $317,709; Salad forks 11,304 of them at $24,416. (What the hell, somebody else pays the bill.)

    At the lobby bar: Terrazzo: $80,000; millwork at bar: $94,000; miscellaneous iron—glass rails: $112,900.

    And so much, much more.

    Three-thousand-two-hundred banquet chairs, $316,800 (add fabric—$41,040); pasta bowls—1,512 for $22,150; Dinner plates, 10,500 for $93,450.

    I couldn’t possible tell you all they will buy for these venues. The list of supplies is nine pages long, single spaced lists of items for service that end up costing more than $2.5 million.

    Well, you get the picture.
    But the final slap at County residents—property taxes.

    Property taxes will be diverted from the county, city and library but not the Cleveland schools. It’s called Tax Incremental Financing, a form of tax abatement. (The County couldn’t give me the TIF cost. It will be in the millions of dollars. When and if I ever get it I’ll post it in the comment section.)

    They will have to build underground to parking and will spend another $1.5 million for art.
    Nothing is too much when someone else picks up the tab.

    By Roldo Bartimole…


    1. Carla says:

      Hhmm…I tried to post this comment last night, but apparently it never made it, so will try again:

      Excellent piece, Roldo. May I suggest one edit?

      “Nothing is too much when the poorest people in one of the most challenged counties in the country are picking up the tab.”

    2. I have just been informed that the TIF will cost local governments $750,000 a year or for 30 years – at least at today’s tax levels – $22.5 million.

    3. Belinda Pesti says:

      If you check on all the major development in city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga county you will find that the TIF has been used and millions of taxes to all levels of government have been diverted to paying the debt on the project. Chicago experienced the same loss of income by the use of this incentive. The true use was to fund public improvements needed for a major project to proceed. Just sayin’

    4. Carla: I wish I had thought of putting it that way. Thanks.

    5. Yes Belinda, TIF has been used to support “development” here, including the Rock Hall. But the question remains why don’t developers pay for their development, rather than taxpayers who have to make up the difference. Hundreds of millions of dollars of development in Cleveland have TIFs associated at considerable cost in lost property taxes. The rest of us have to pay higher property taxes to make up for it and for tax abatements that were at the 3/4 of a billion dollars in the county recently. Eaton Corp., which moved to virgin land in Chagrin Highlands, opened by the city of Cleveland, from the City of Cleveland received a 30 year TIF. It rewarded Americans by moving its headquarters to Ireland to escape further U. S. taxes. I’d call that Sandy Cutler of Eaton, a nose thumb to all residents here.

    6. […] City boosters declared a victory when Cleveland won the convention, and promptly began pouring taxpayer money into new hotels and downtown renovations. Homeowners excitedly planned to leave town and put their houses up for […]

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