PORTLAND, Maine — Entrepreneurs Joshua Ames and Nate Donovan first cooked up their mixture espresso store, speakeasy, literary hub and retail studying room enterprise thought over brunch in 2021.
They started working shopping for tools, signed a five-year lease on Congress Road and spent almost a 12 months renovating the two-floor area. Ames and Donovan had been nearly able to open Novel E-book Bar & Cafe.
Nevertheless it won’t occur. Portland metropolis officers have levied a $18,000 “affect charge” on the brand new operation and instructed the duo they will’t open till they pay up.
Ames and Donovan stated they’ve sunk all the pieces into their dream and don’t have the money.
“We even requested if we may work out a cost plan,” Donovan stated, standing within the area at 643 Congress St. with a pile of bookshelves ready to go up behind him. “However they’re not lenient with that in any respect.”
In Portland, builders are required to pay affect charges calculated beneath a set schedule once they assemble new buildings or develop older ones for brand spanking new makes use of. The charges are supposed to fund municipal infrastructure similar to sewer and water, in addition to accommodating added automobiles, bikes and pedestrians that new companies and housing might entice to metropolis streets and parks.
Donovan and Ames didn’t assume they might be paying any affect charges once they took over their area a 12 months in the past as a result of they weren’t massive builders, simply two associates opening a flowery espresso store and bar. They had been fallacious.
Unknown to them, their landlord or the business actual property agent who brokered the lease deal, the earlier tenant had been formally listed by town as largely an workplace however not a retailer. That’s the reason Donovan and Ames are technically redeveloping and altering the usage of the area, and thus chargeable for affect charges.
The storefront was most not too long ago occupied by Bomb Diggity Arts, a program serving artists with mental disabilities. The operation had a small retail gallery going through Congress Road however was not categorised as such with town.
“Disgrace on us for not doing the analysis, I assume,” Donovan stated.
Main builders are often ready to pay affect charges, that are frequent across the nation, Helen Donaldson, director of particular tasks in Portland’s planning division, stated. Nevertheless, smaller or first-time entrepreneurs can generally be caught off guard.
“The charges are primarily based on flooring area and the way many individuals could be driving or strolling there,” Donaldson stated. “The concept is to make the charges predictable.”
Donovan isn’t new to the enterprise world. He has a grasp’s diploma in enterprise administration and one other diploma in finance. He additionally ran a profitable building outfit for a number of years. He stated he is aware of what an affect charge is and could be pleased to pay if he and his companion may afford it. However he was shocked by the quantity, which he known as unfair to new, small companies like his.
Portland’s ever-churning and tumultuous restaurant scene meant banks weren’t prepared to lend Donovan and Ames any cash. They’ve used their very own money and brought out a personally assured non-public mortgage to finance their enterprise.
With out another choices left to lift cash, the duo has reluctantly turned to on-line fundraising, asking their Instagram followers for assist. In return for donations, Donovan and Ames are promising T-shirts, mugs, coasters and books after they open.
Began a month in the past, the web fundraising whole at the moment stands at $1,535. If they will’t attain their purpose, Donovan stated he and Ames might must liquidate their 401(ok)s, absorbing the substantial tax and early withdrawal penalties.
“If we don’t cough up $18,000 to this city, we’re not opening,” Donovan stated. “If we had deep pockets, that’d be one factor, however we’re simply two guys attempting to open up a cool factor for the city.”