Downtown Indy businesses demand answers from Mayor Hogsett 31 days after riots

Politics

INDIANAPOLIS — It has been 31 days after the second night of riots in downtown Indianapolis, and business owners are still demanding answers from Mayor Joe Hogsett.

They believe he did not do enough to protect their livelihoods that night, and they do not believe he has shown leadership.

Mayor Hogsett’s office told FOX59 on Tuesday an announcement will take place on Wednesday about an economic restart program with a large financial commitment aimed at helping local businesses. A press release for the event says the program hopes to encourage residents to support Indianapolis’ restaurants, museums, cultural institutions, small businesses and hospitality amenities.

Businesses are still boarded up near Monument Circle. Downtown Indy Inc. expects repairs from damages that violent weekend in May will cost roughly $3 million. Bob Schultz, senior VP of Downtown Indy Inc, said the organization is still looking at cost estimates.

Some business owners are desperate, and they want to know the mayor’s plans to bring downtown back to life.

“It should have never happened,” said Chris Karnavas, owner of Jack’s Donuts. “We all knew it was coming Saturday night.”

Just like some of his neighbors, Karnavas’ shop is draped in plywood after protests turned violent on May 30.

“That’s the frustrating part,” he said. “I watched the city get looted destroyed, and there was no response.”

He believes Mayor Hogsett should have done more that night to protect businesses downtown. IMPD Chief Randal Taylor confirmed last week officers did move back on the circle, but they never completely left the area.

“Total neglect from the mayor’s office,” Karnavas said.

Karnavas said a deputy mayor reached out to him recently after he voiced concerns but explained he is still waiting to hear directly from the mayor.

“In the end, we need to hear from him as business owners,” he said. “He is the leader of the city. He is the one that should be coming up front with everything”

31 days after that violent night, some stores on the circle have taken down the boards. Others look the same as they did a few weeks ago.

Now some are left wondering what the future will look like for downtown and if their businesses can survive this.

“I don’t see a plan for downtown. We still haven’t resolved the boarded up windows and how we are going to move forward,” said Brian Shapiro, owner of Shapiro’s Deli.

Shapiro said he heard from one of Mayor Hogsett’s representatives too. He said they told him a plan for downtown is coming soon.

“I am looking for leadership from the mayor, and the leadership he is going to have get from the local corporations of Indianapolis,” said Shapiro.

That idea may be in the works already. Downtown Indy Inc. is now establishing a recovery committee. Their hope is to rebuild downtown and address the economic challenges of COVID-19. The immediate focus will be on building consumer confidence and enticing continued and equitable investment in downtown.

“This is what we do, convene and collaborate. How can these businesses leaders from the colts and the pacers to small businesses work together to build up downtown?” said Schultz.

Karnavas at Jack’s donuts is optimistic about that plan but cautious. After weeks of losses because of COVID-19, the riots were another hit.

He’s still looking at the mayor to help downtown get back to business.

“We need people to come back down to the city,” said Karnavas.

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