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Rochester businesses ask for financial relief from City of Rochester

"This is really extraordinary times for a lot of people and a little bit of grace would be kind and helpful," says one downtown business owner.

Posted: Mar 24, 2020 7:09 PM
Updated: Mar 24, 2020 7:15 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Grand Rounds Brewing Company and Restaurant is one of many Rochester businesses struggling to make ends meet during the mandated bar and restaurant closures.

Owner Tessa Leung had to lay off her staff, but a few are still volunteering their time. On Monday, two of the volunteer employees were issued parking tickets by a Rochester Police Department Community Officer. Leung was apalled that parking enforcement was still strictly being enforced. She expressed her frustration on Facebook, and the Rochester Police Department replied: "The Rochester Police Department has been directed to continuing to enforce meters, in an effort to make sure businesses that are remaining open, can have parking for their short term customers, particularly those getting take out. Every business remaining open can contact Public Works to have two meters bagged to facilitate this. If businesses have other needs please contact us and we can take care of those issues on a case by case basis."

Leung was able to speak to a member of the department Tuesday morning, who she said was kind and apologetic. She was ready to pay for the tickets on her staff's behalf, but was able to have the tickets waived. She tells KIMT she isn't upset with the police, but is frustrated with city officials.

"This is really extraordinary times for a lot of people and a little bit of grace would be kind and helpful," says Leung. "I know parking seems incremental and tiny but its so low on our list of things to think about right now."

As of Monday night, The City of Rochester is placing a moratorium on parking meter enforcement for 30 days. Here's a full statement from the city regarding the parking situation:

"The City has been evaluating all of its parking operations, including meters, as a potential strategy to assist local businesses. When we were notified yesterday that some vehicles parked outside of downtown restaurants who are offering take-out during the government-mandated closure of bars and restaurants had been issued parking violations, City Administration determined the appropriate step was to impose a 30-day moratorium on parking meter enforcement effective immediately (3/24/20). The City asks that meters continue to be for short-term parking so our valued local businesses have convenient parking for their customers. Long term parking should continue in parking ramps and lots.

In addition to this reprieve, businesses that require parking for take-out can now obtain Right-of-Way permits from the city’s Public Works Department. This will allow for short-term parking outside of these establishments without having to plug a meter or pay using the ParkMobile app.

As an aside, the city has also suspended enforcement of residential parking permit zones through the end of March and ended all seasonal parking requirements. All other parking ordinances remain in effect, including no parking zones and overnight parking restrictions."

Recently, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce emailed the City of Rochester making several suggestions of ways to provide financial relief for businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic, including suspending recently increased liquor fees, pausing parking contract payments without putting businesses back on the waiting list for parking spots, and temporarily stopping policy considerations on the Historic District.

"What the city government can do is going to be very helpful in reducing some of that stress in this really tough, tough time," Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce President Kathleen Harrington tells KIMT. She believes her letter to the city was taken seriously and that city officials will take positive action.

This is a transcript of the e-mail sent to city officials:

"Dear City leaders,

I am writing with the utmost urgency for some specific City economic relief for small businesses. Our small businesses fully appreciate the public health challenge we are facing, support the Governor’s Executive Order(s) and the public health guidelines. The State of Minnesota has taken seriously their role in supporting the economy and daily are offering various ways to assist business – large and small through this crisis. We need the City to do the same in the areas in which you have jurisdiction. The City has an impact on the cost of doing business in the City of Rochester and I am asking that your examine areas you can adjust immediately to reduce some of that financial burden. Small business need some immediate relief from City government costs to assist in the near term for certain with the caveat of potential needs for the future. We need action from you NOW to assist small businesses to keep their businesses afloat during this challenging time.

The following are three examples within your jurisdiction which if enacted swiftly could provide some immediate relief and assist small business in their critical efforts to preserve cash and be able to keep their businesses operational at this time:

1. Suspension for a duration of time the payment of the recently increased liquor license fees. A companion request for suspension of the soon due license fees, is a request not to require businesses to complete the new license application. I am told by a number of businesses that the application is far more complex than in the past and requires more administration time to complete. Please suspend payment and allow the former application to suffice at this time. Please suspend these fees and show understanding and respect that both capital and staff time are precious right now.

2. Suspend payment for downtown monthly contract parking for a few months. Employers are paying for parking for employees who they are allowing/requiring to work from home to support the general welfare of the community. Please suspend these fees now. For many small businesses the parking fees are a significant part of their operating budget. Suspension of payment for a period of time is essential. During this time, employers must be able to keep their spaces in reserve and not have to go back on to the waiting list. While maybe not intended this policy is shortsighted. It may be unintentional but not suspending contract payment fees and putting people who can’t keep their spots for their staff back on the waiting list sends a strong message to the community of either local government’s insensitivity or lack of understanding of the reality of small businesses’ struggle to stay afloat at this point.

3. Please examine any other City licenses/fees which could be suspended or extended for a period of time.

Immediate and more broad based suggestions:

1. Please suspend policy considerations/public discussions on the Historic Distict and the HPC strategic plan. These property owners and small businessmen and women are in crisis right now trying to keep their businesses open without having to focus time and attention on this issue.

2. Please suspend exploration and potential public conversation on additional policy items which increase the cost of doing business in Rochester. We will get through this but to increase cost at this time is not in the best interests of our communty’s economic strength.

All parts of government are doing their respective jobs and relief is forthcoming. We are pleased that the SBA has opened its portal to loan applications which will provide a 3.75% incerest loan for up to $2M for small business and 2.75% interest loan for non-profits. We are working hard to educate our community on this new economic tool. Best case scenario though for processing these loans is three weeks. Upone approval the recipent will receive $25K. That is why we need City government to reduce fees – rollback, reprieves. City government is closest to the people and should be able to act swiftyl and I encourage you do so so.

Small business is committed to doing its part – following Executive Orders and good public health guidelines. We really need local government to step up in a meaningful way to do all you can to reduce the fiscal pressure and administrative burdens on small businesses. It will be so important that WHEN we come through this, we can all say, we did out best.

Stay healthy and most sincerely,

Kathleen"

KIMT reached out to the City of Rochester for comment on the recommendations from the chamber. This is the city's statement:

"City administration has asked the recently formed Economic Stability Program planning team to consider the Chamber’s requests and provide a recommendation for consideration. At present, the group is gathering relevant information from city departments to evaluate the financial impact of the Chamber’s requests.

The Economic Stability collective came together to address the immediate financial needs of our local business community as a result of the recent COVID-19 pandemic and includes representatives from the City of Rochester, Rochester Downtown Alliance, Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. (RAEDI), Destination Medical Center, and the Chamber. To date, the City and RAEDI have allocated $350K to support our local businesses in this time of need. You can learn more about these efforts on our website by clicking here.

'Success of small businesses is vital to our city’s economy,' said City Administrator Steve Rymer. 'We are working closely every day with our community partners to actively explore a range of relief options to help these businesses in need.'

More information on these requests and other initiatives will be available yet this week."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 454989

Reported Deaths: 6163
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin943781502
Ramsey40624748
Dakota33540354
Anoka31357368
Washington20533237
Stearns18091190
St. Louis13970250
Scott1217799
Wright11791107
Olmsted1078075
Sherburne829669
Carver704439
Clay658884
Rice624274
Kandiyohi558072
Blue Earth548033
Crow Wing490478
Otter Tail464268
Chisago459538
Benton423688
Winona394548
Douglas379366
Nobles374647
Mower373729
Goodhue356863
Polk330760
McLeod328147
Beltrami315748
Morrison314545
Lyon305539
Becker288939
Itasca287343
Isanti285643
Carlton284043
Steele278910
Pine270315
Freeborn254123
Todd233730
Nicollet229438
Brown218034
Mille Lacs215645
Le Sueur214216
Cass210724
Meeker201333
Waseca193216
Wabasha17463
Martin171926
Roseau166417
Hubbard150738
Redwood141127
Houston140014
Dodge13934
Renville138440
Chippewa133032
Cottonwood129018
Fillmore12698
Wadena120818
Rock112012
Aitkin111433
Sibley10997
Faribault109416
Watonwan10688
Pennington101016
Kanabec99618
Pipestone96823
Yellow Medicine94916
Murray9117
Jackson87310
Swift84518
Pope7475
Stevens7078
Marshall70315
Clearwater68814
Lake66315
Lac qui Parle66116
Wilkin6339
Koochiching60610
Lincoln4912
Unassigned47369
Big Stone4693
Grant4388
Norman4258
Mahnomen4167
Kittson37420
Red Lake3204
Traverse2613
Lake of the Woods1961
Cook1160

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 311430

Reported Deaths: 4433
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk46841465
Linn18065279
Scott15872172
Black Hawk14090243
Woodbury13129181
Johnson1230052
Dubuque11625159
Pottawattamie9166115
Dallas908972
Story881038
Cerro Gordo473572
Webster472477
Sioux459757
Warren459339
Clinton458168
Marshall431162
Buena Vista396330
Muscatine396178
Des Moines395143
Plymouth353270
Wapello350798
Jasper332859
Lee324632
Marion309353
Jones274950
Henry267131
Carroll258434
Bremer250148
Crawford234724
Boone222917
Washington222933
Benton213650
Mahaska197937
Jackson195032
Tama190259
Dickinson188829
Kossuth180644
Delaware176236
Clay172521
Wright167124
Fayette166024
Hamilton162330
Buchanan162224
Winneshiek160820
Harrison158562
Hardin157931
Cedar155619
Clayton153849
Butler151724
Page147115
Floyd141636
Cherokee140127
Mills138517
Lyon137533
Poweshiek135224
Hancock131924
Allamakee130930
Iowa127722
Madison123910
Calhoun12349
Grundy122628
Winnebago122229
Jefferson122125
Mitchell116837
Louisa116230
Cass115243
Chickasaw113712
Appanoose112640
Sac112215
Union111623
Emmet111332
Humboldt106819
Shelby105527
Guthrie104424
Franklin103618
Unassigned10160
Palo Alto92411
Montgomery89124
Keokuk86326
Howard85919
Monroe82220
Clarke8129
Pocahontas78211
Ida76030
Davis70321
Greene6977
Adair69620
Monona68518
Lucas66710
Osceola64711
Worth6194
Taylor5999
Fremont5246
Van Buren50215
Decatur4974
Ringgold45111
Audubon4228
Wayne42021
Adams3003
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