CINCINNATI — A West End catering business remains without a permanent home while the NAACP and community activists demand the city and FC Cincinnati help find one she can afford.
Monica's Just Cookin’ had to close to make way for the new FC Cincinnati stadium, so she went to the NAACP to get help in relocating. At the same time, she was working with the soccer club, which bought the property she had been renting, on finding new space.
So far, there’s no agreement on a solution.
Meanwhile, owner Monica Williams vows to keep going. Within hours of Tuesday’s stadium groundbreaking, Williams was crowned champ of the team's first “Gumbo Challenge.”
“Look for me in the future — Just Cookin’ Catering,” Williams said. “We’re going to be doing all cookouts and challenges in the near future.”
The question is where?
Just Cookin’ was based on West 15th Street but closed in November. Supporters surged Cincinnati city council Wednesday to help.
“People lost housing. People lost jobs. I just don’t think it’s fair to the community,” one supporter said.
Local activist Brian Garry said the people who worked for Williams are suffering.
“There are eight people who are out of work, two on the verge of homelessness,” Garry said. “One has become homeless because they haven’t had any income for the past six weeks.”
After Williams filed a complaint, the NAACP met with FC Cincinnati and city leaders to work on a replacement solution.
“What we want out of this whole thing — all of us — is we want her to be made whole. I think she deserves that,” said Cincinnati NAACP vice-president Joe Mallory.
“Miss Williams prefers to be and remain in the West End. That is her primary goal. That is our primary goal,” said Bennett Allen, Williams’ attorney.
Williams has been shown space at Linn and Clark streets in the West End, but there is a question whether she can afford the $450,000 buildout cost. She was paying $650 per month rent in her old location.
Another permanent location might be the former Cuban Pete’s restaurant on East Court Street.
FC Cincinnati community relations director Mark Mallory has been working with Williams on finding a new site.
“What we don’t want to do is put her in a situation where she ends up failing in the business. We don’t want that. We want her to be successful,” Mark Mallory said.
Community activists like Dale Mallory are speaking out to make sure Williams has new business space as soon as possible.
“We welcome progress and development in the West End. We do not welcome displacement. We do not welcome gentrification. We do not welcome higher property taxes,” Dale Mallory said.
"What’s at stake is respect for the West End community,” he said.
One temporary option is a food truck to get Williams’ employees back to work.
“There’s a food truck option that would allow her and everyone she’s employing to be back at work, especially during the holidays,” said Cincinnati city councilmember Greg Landsman. “Long term, yes, she needs to be in a space where she can be successful.”