What do Fuddruckers, Einstein?s Bagels, and Chamblin?s Uptown have in common? The opening of these businesses was delayed by permitting issues. Business after business have attempted to open a location downtown and have been delayed for weeks, and in some cases even months, because a merchant did not have the right permit, or did not apply for the right license.
One of Mayor John Peyton’s campaign promises was to streamline the permitting process. However, this streamlining was yet another improvement geared for large scale developments, not for the small business owners.
National bagel retailer Einstein's Bagels opened weeks late because their legal department could not figure out Jacksonville's permitting maze.
This is something that is troubling to see downtown, especially when you have organizations like Downtown Vision (DVI) and the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, whose job it is to promote business growth, and in the case of DVI, to specifically promote it downtown. What’s more troubling is that in the case of Einstein’s and Fuddruckers, these are national chains that can afford to pay people to deal with the city’s red tape. If these corporations, who have people dedicated to the task, can’t figure out the city’s maze of retail business permitting requirements, is there any hope for small businesses?
Local businessman Ron Chamblin, owner of Chamblin's Bookmine on Roosevelt Blvd, is in the process of opening his second location, Chamblin's Uptown. The location was originally scheduled to open in November 2006. As of April 2007, significant work remains undone.
The fact that business after business has failed to open on time due to permitting issues is a result of one or more of the following problems:
1. The city requires permits for ridiculous things (or things that don’t require permits in other parts of town).
2. The process to open up a business downtown is not clear.
3. Different people are giving different answers to the same questions.
One tidbit that may help: In the Downtown Development flowchart on the city's website, COJ.net, it may help to list the names of people that actually work for the city.
As of April 26th, the following document contains the names of contacts no longer in their stated positions: http://www.coj.net/
Why is it that we turn something so simple into something so complicated? We always talk about these big ideas and all these parks and open spaces and all of these riverfront improvements, yet if small businesses and merchants can't get a permit to open up shop, it's all for nothing.