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Mahoganys Restaurant Owner Says Payment Plan in Place
CINCINNATI (Jeff Hirsh) -- To critics this may be a case of "I told you so," but to supporters of Mahogany's Restaurant several thousand dollars in unpaid state and city obligations are a hurdle which will be cleared.
The city of Cincinnati brought the minority-owned restaurant to The Banks to help make the project more diverse. Cold nights in February are not exactly prime time for restaurants near a baseball park and Liz Rogers says the cold and snow the past couple of months has not helped business either.
But Rogers says she's determined to pay what she owes and make Mahogany's a success.
"I do pay my bills," Liz Rogers, The owner of Mahogany's at The Banks said. It is an upscale soul food restaurant and the only minority-owned business at the critical Cincinnati project.
Rogers went on the offensive to defend her business and the city's investment in it. Rogers owes about 22,000 dollars in workers compensation premiums and sales taxes, and has fallen behind on paying back a 300,000 dollar loan from the city of Cincinnati.
"I just call it turbulence. I had a rocky take off. I'm up in the air flying smooth. I'm celebrating my year anniversary and I'm just hitting some turbulence. It's very slow at The Banks for all of us."
Mahogany's was originally in Hamilton. Rogers and her husband owed 3,400 dollars in property taxes up there and when Cincinnati city council approved financial aid for business owners with unpaid taxes it was a controversy.
Then city manager, Milton Dohoney, convinced enough on council that there will be enough cash flow and business generated for Mahogany's to pay back its city loan.
Cincinnati Councilmember, Yvette Simpson (D), said, "Very often we're trying to spur economic development in a place like The Banks and you do have to make an investment in this type of venture."
Chris Seelbach (D) said, "I one hundred percent want The Banks to be an inclusive and diverse area of our city and hope that it continues to be. But I also want the city to only enter into good deals."
The owners of Mahogany's did pay all the back taxes in Hamilton and Liz Rogers says there is a payment plan in place to deal with everything they owe now and keep the business moving forward.
When asked if she felt like she was being focused on more than other businesses which have similar problems Rogers responded, "There are hundreds of businesses in the city that have similar problems or worse. They file bankruptcy, they close. We're not talking about how many businesses we lost this year or how many people closed their doors. I don't feel like a victim. This is what I signed up for."
According to the Ohio Industrial Commission, about 43,000 businesses were delinquent statewide in their workers compensation premiums as of the last deadline. That's about 15 percent of all private businesses. Most businesses eventually do pay. By last month about five percent were still late, and turned over to the attorney general's office for litigation including Mahogany's.
In addition to the 300,000 dollar loan, Mahogany's also received a nearly 700,000 dollar grant to design and build the restaurant. Mahogany's employs nearly 60 people.