Work-from-home policies in downtown office buildings impacting local economy

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS — As pandemic restrictions ease around the state, downtown office buildings continue to remain mostly vacant.

Local restaurants and retailers say it’s impacting their ability to stay open.

“A third maybe, on a good day,” said Danielle Cooney when asked about her current customer base at Soupremacy where she is a manager. “Until we can get the workforce back and conventions back, which isn’t going to be until next year, I feel like we are losing a restaurant a day, one or two a week.”

The latest restaurant to close is Sahm’s Tavern on Capitol Avenue. The Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association (InRLA) says most downtown office buildings would be lucky to be at 10% occupancy right now. Some restaurants near Monument Circle began altering hours and staffing numbers to make up for the lost customer base. A few have resorted to adding delivery services to keep up.

“The conventions, the conferences, they just add on. They are icing on top of a cake, but we don’t even have a cake right now,” said Doug Stephenson, owner of Downtown Comics. “My customer base, a good portion of it comes from the office buildings.”

InRLA adds that even companies returning to a hybrid schedule with two to three days in the office would help the local economy begin to recover.

“We are very concerned about the next six months being harder than the previous six, particularly when we are relying on those holidays, office parties, and other things and how those may or may not occur,” said InRLA President and CEO Patrick Tamm.

Tamm says roughly 80,000 people rely on tourism for work in Marion County alone.

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