By Katie Allen
On October 3, the city of Wadsworth launched the ‘Restaurant Expansion and Attraction Program’, or REAP. Being the first of its kind to come to Wadsworth, REAP aims to provide aid to local sit-down restaurants or restaurants planning to open.
“This was really a response to the community saying that they would like to have more sit-down and true dining options. So we budget $50,000 with City Council’s approval and we set the program up,” said Matthew Springer, Wadsworth’s Director of Economic Development. “The way that it’ll work would be, any restaurant within the city limits, would be eligible to apply if they met a couple requirements, it has to be full service, sit down and dine in a restaurant.”
From the $50,000 budgeted, if a restaurant does qualify, the program would then reimburse them up to 50% of their improvements. The money can be used towards kitchen equipment, expanding their indoor dining service, increasing hours, or even being able to launch a new restaurant or food product.
“The improvements have to be permanent, so that unfortunately, if somebody did go out of business, there could still be somebody else coming in on the backside and reoccupying that space, reusing some of those improvements we helped pay for,” Springer said. “Some of the examples of indoor improvements would be new seating, like booths, lighting fixtures, and new floors. Anything like that, increasing the square footage of where customers could dine, would be considered allowable uses.”
As this program has been in the works for several months and has already gained support from local restaurants, additional money has already been budgeted for 2023, subject to city council’s approval. “We are learning from the first round to see how well it is received and what kind of demand is out there. We are certainly experiencing a lot of demand from the business owners and restaurant operators,” Springer said. “I think it’s been well received and I think that’s what the city council wanted to know. Is there really a need for it, and if so, we are going to ask that they support it again next year.”
At 4PM on Friday, October 28, applications will close, and the acceptance process will begin. Applicants will be scored based on the project’s evaluation scorecard. “We hope to have the announcements shortly thereafter [October 28]. Then having the announcements made before the year ends,” Springer said. “I think it is important to note, that because it is a reimbursement, we’ll make the announcement that it requires that restaurant operator to actually move forward with the project; complete it; and receive all of their final approvals for inspections. Then once it occurs at that point, we could issue the reimbursement.”