Closings concern Spanish Fort officials


SPANISH FORT – Business closings since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, including three Eastern Shore Center restaurants shutting down for good, have officials worried about lost tax revenue.

At a City Council work session on May 18, Councilman Bill Menas said that at least three restaurants in the center on Alabama 181 have closed and will not reopen. He said Panera Bread, Ruby Tuesday and Logan’s Steakhouse have all shut down since the first stay-at-home orders were issued in March.

He said closings in the mall will hurt city tax revenue.

“I don’t know what we can do as a council and a city, but I think we need to do something,” Menas said. “I think the city’s got to be involved in some way, shape or form. I don’t know how or what, but we need to get some communication going, what we can do, if anything to help them because that’s a big blow right there.”

Councilman Curt Smith also said he was worried about the loss of business.

“It’s really scary and we are going to take a hit on our budget this coming year no matter what we do,” Smith said. “Places have been shut down and we’re not getting very much of that internet revenue. It’s going to be a fun time budget this year.”

Mayor Mike McMillan said city officials are preparing for reduced tax income in upcoming months. He said projects and purchases that can be postponed are being put on hold.

“That’s why the city has taken the steps we have and put a halt to projects,” McMillan said. “Our revenues are going to be down, but our expenses are going to be down too.”

McMillan said that before the outbreak, the city commissioned a $15,000 study on needs at the mall. He said one estimate was the about $3 million in repairs are needed. The mayor said city officials are attempting to discuss the issues with owners at the site.

“I do still have faith in those projects. I do believe the economy will return. The setbacks in the last eight weeks is not helping matters. There are some bright spots out there. You see some new people in the food courts. They’re open again. You see the restaurants opening again,” McMillan said. You’re always going to have some attrition, particularly when you go through a six or eight-week period of no income. Do I like that? No. Can we do better? Yes.”