Backstage Blues?

When Ciao Baby Cucina on Seventh Street downtown announced it was closing, no one tried to link the closing with the level of business in the area because the company reported that its financial p

Christopher Finney

When Ciao Baby Cucina on Seventh Street downtown announced it was closing, no one tried to link the closing with the level of business in the area because the company reported that its financial problems were occurring throughout the chain, despite location.

But the closing of the Graeter's Inc. at the Aronoff Center for the Performing Arts might be a different story. As a reason for closing the ice cream shop, company officials have cited weak sales — at that location as opposed to throughout the Graeter's chain.

The Graeter's closing also follows the closing of the Aronoff's gift shop, which closed for similar reasons.

Is Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI), which is charged with downtown revitalization, concerned that the recent closings signal a problem for the hub of activity DCI and businesses are supposed to be spurring in the entertainment district around the Aronoff?

The closing is "a pretty significant concern," said David Ginsburg, DCI's senior vice president.

Ginsburg said much of the ice cream shop's problem seemed to follow a decline in business at the Aronoff after the Broadway Series added programming at the Taft Theatre. But, he said, Graeter's probably would have survived had it been able to hold out a bit longer.

Because of concerns that have been raised by Backstage area merchants, the Aronoff, Broadway Series and Taft are working "in good faith" on solutions, Ginsburg said.

In addition, DCI is hard at work planning events like April in Paris — a month-long promotion designed to attract business.

What level of concern does Graeter's think its experience in the entertainment district should generate?

"I hope (DCI) would be concerned," said Bob Graeter, vice president of operations for Graeter's. "Their job is to build businesses in the core downtown area."

Graeter said that a lack of events downtown, many of which DCI is involved in planning, translated into a lack of sales, meaning the eventual loss of a company's ability to stay in business.

"There's nothing else around that area at night unless there's an event," he said. "Merchants in that area are going to suffer."

Not Gone, Not Forgotten
The former chairman of Hamilton County's tax review committee has been garnering some publicity with the stance he is taking against tax funds being used to expand the Albert B. Sabin Convention Center.

Christopher Finney, also a Cincinnati lawyer, told reporters last week that the $325 to $350 million cost of the expansion was too much for Cincinnati taxpayers to bear.

In response, Finney has gotten some shots.

Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls told The Enquirer, "I suggest Mr. Finney should run for office instead of exercising the failed leadership of saying no."

Is Finney planning to run for office?

Absolutely not, he said. And since when can't an ordinary citizen exercise his right to participate in a democracy by organizing a citizens' protest against over burdensome taxes?, Finney would like to know.

Still, others can't seem to simply accept Finney's ability to get publicity when he is involved in an issue he would like examined. Some have gone so far as to suggest that Finney is acting on the desires of one of his law clients.

But Finney says that people like the mayor simply can't handle the fact that Finney's issues become newsworthy "because I actually say something relevant."

And what is Finney's true motive?

"I am constantly annoyed when our public officials come up with new ways to spend my money," he said.

Those officials, he said, act as though there's no limit on the bills citizens should be asked to foot so citizen protest is the only solution.

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