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Shelley Osterloh ReportingAnother long established business in downtown Salt Lake City says it plans to close it doors because of dwindling customers.
For more than 90 years there has been a cafe in the Judge Building at Main Street and 300 South, but the current owner says she just can't make ends meet any more. The planned closure is particularly difficult when other restaurants are getting redevelopment grants to move to Main Street.
Carole Couch has owned and operated the Judge Cafe for 26 years, but when her lease is up in June, she says she'll close the door for good. She says she still gets a good lunchtime crowd, but morning and evenings are empty.
Carole Couch, Owner Judge Cafe: "It all started when they built TRAX and did the freeway, and I think people changed their habits."
Anna Drake, Long Time Customer: "It’s just a lack of traffic I think, I mean people who are in business, still come. We still want to go to the restaurants, but the retail is what is down."
The Judge is a unique cafe that appeals to many Jazz players as well as downtown workers. And while Couch has had many good years she says, since the Olympics she has steadily lost money.
Long established businesses in the downtown area are upset with the redevelopment agency for giving a 20 thousand dollar grant to five businesses just to spur new business along Main Street.
Carole Couch, Owner Judge Cafe: "If somebody handed me 20 thousand dollars, you wouldn't be talking to me today. I wouldn't have the problems that I'm having."
Three of the five businesses that will receive RDA money and will relocate to Main Street sell food. Lambs Grill and Cafe has been on Main Street for more than 65 years. Its owner says he supports efforts to revitalize downtown, but doesn't think giving money to his competition is the way to do it.
John T. Speros, owner, Lambs Grill Cafe: "It's preposterous that the government should get involved in subsidizing competition to businesses that have been here."
Salt Lake City Councilman Van Turner, Chairman of the Redevelopment Agency, says the RDA grants are an experiment intended to entice new business to downtown. But it may not continue if the RDA determines its hurting existing businesses.
Van Turner, Chairman SLC Redevelopment Agency: “I think we need to get more feedback and see how they perceive the situation itself. Again it’s a trial. It’s a trial. We are trying to do the best we can."