Downtown business cites coronavirus, riots and ‘infested empty downtown’ as reasons for suspending operations

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INDIANAPOLIS – After 30 years on Monument Circle, Studio 2000 Salon & Day Spa announced on Facebook it has suspended operations as of August 7. The owners of the family business said a “mandatory government shutdown, a worldwide virus, a violent riot and an infested empty downtown have ended [their] dream.”

The passionate post listed some of the challenges they faced operating a business on Monument Circle over the past few months. Even though Studio 2000 said it received a PPP loan, it still struggled to stay open. The three owners said the riots in May “damaged the psyche of the residents, workers, and shoppers in downtown” and countless clients told them they are afraid to come downtown.

The owners also called Monument Circle a “haven for a group of drug users and mentally ill people” and this activity is pushing customers away from downtown.

Studio 2000 is also pointing fingers at the Mayor’s office, Downtown Indy, Visit Indy and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. In their post, they said these groups have taken too long to act and they have no plan to help retailers. Yet, they cited the $1 million advertising campaign Mayor Hogsett announced in July.

Chris Gahl, Senior Vice President of Visit Indy, said they have tracked $587,000 in visitor spending in 40 days with the campaign running through the end of September.

“These visitors, in addition to the city hosting six events over the same 40 days bringing-in more than 40,000 additional visitors.  As a non-profit charged with driving tourism, we are doing everything we can to keep Indy healthy.” Gahl said.

Gahl said the events inside the Indiana Convention Center created more than $7 million in visitor spending over the same 40 days.

Downtown Indy Inc. recently created a Downtown Recovery Committee who is focusing on three areas: economy, safety and aesthetics. The group is made up of leaders representing businesses large and small, private and public, including minority and Black-owned businesses to address the economic challenges of COVID-19, as well as social and racial inequity.

Bob Schultz, Senior Vice President of Downtown Indy Inc., said the committee leaders have been meeting at least two times a week to focus on improvements, short and long time and identifying funding to make changes happen. Schultz said efforts are already taking shape to significantly fund strategies around safety, homelessness, cleanliness of Downtown, and then marketing.

“We are fighting. All of us, including Studio 2000. How can we improve downtown get the workforce back and get people wanting to come back downtown,” said Schultz.

On safety, the recovery committee is discussing the increase of patrols and a camera network to catch criminal activity. They hope to be making an announcement later this week specifically to increased safety and security efforts.

Schultz said the city, the state, private sector, the prosecutor, and civic organizations, must increase public safety and deal with crime.

He explained only 25 percent of the downtown workforce has returned because of COVID-19.

“Studio 2000 is not alone. The biggest culprit is the virus. And we need to address that, as well. The virus is to blame for closed shelters. For reduced staffing for our organization. For a lack of workers returning in large numbers to downtown. For convention cancellations. For sports going fan-less. For bars not being allowed to open. For restaurants only being able to open at 25%. It is easy to cast blame on individuals, organizations and governments, but we have a common enemy here – the virus,” he said.

Mayor Hogsett also revealed a Downtown Public Safety Strategy in mid-July. It addressed downtown cleanliness, resources for those experiencing homelessness, and safety.

On Tuesday, his office also noted the $12 million in business and non-profit grants the city has allocated through Coronavirus Relief Funding to help those impacted by the pandemic and the $2 million for rapid rehousing of our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

The owners of Studio 2000 said they are helping their more than 20 staff members find new places to conduct business and stay employed.

“We would have never dreamed that our “Beautiful Business” and our vibrant Monument Circle would end up like this,” wrote the owners.

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