A fast-food restaurant and a brew pub that plan to open in Lancaster will receive grants of $20,000 each to help with startup costs.
• Blazin’ J’s plans to open at 15 E. King St. in early October, with a menu featuring Southern-style fried chicken sandwiches.
• Our Town Brewery plans to bring a small craft brewery and restaurant to 252 N. Prince St., opening in late 2019 or early 2020.
Both grants were approved Tuesday by the board that oversees the City Revitalization & Improvement Zone program, or CRIZ.
Freshman CRIZ board member Nicole Vasquez is one of four partners in Blazin’ J’s, so she recused herself from the discussion and vote. The grant will help cover the cost of commercial kitchen equipment.
The grant to Our Town Brewery will pay for the venue’s bar.
The combination of unique, handcrafted beer offerings and a value-driven cafe-style menu will differentiate Our Town from competitors, said co-founder Rob Tarves, who is partnering with Rob Patz.
The building is being redeveloped as a multi-use commercial site by Henrietta Heisler. She owns 217-223 W. Walnut St., nearby, where tenants include her interior design business and the vegan restaurant Root.
Prospective tenants at 252 N. Prince St. no longer include local comedy group Lanc Out Loud. It announced its intention to move there last fall, but has decided to pursue other options instead.
Blazin’ J’s and Our Town are the second and third beneficiaries of a pilot grant program the CRIZ set up early this year. The first was the restaurant Citronelle at 110 W. Orange St., which in April received approval for $25,000 to create an outdoor dining area.
Loan program coming soon?
Meanwhile, CRIZ Authority acting director and CEO Randy Patterson updated the board Tuesday on a change that may soon allow the CRIZ to significantly expand its aid to small storefront businesses.
The CRIZ board has been seeking to start a small-business revolving loan program, a companion to the grant program. It would be supported by a bond paid for with CRIZ revenue.
The goal is to make the CRIZ, which has primarily funded large projects such as the Penn Square Marriott hotel expansion and Ewell Plaza’s redevelopment, more accessible to small-scale businesses.
However, the loan program has been blocked by state officials, who said it wasn’t allowed under the CRIZ law.
Well, it should be allowed now, Patterson said: City officials were able to get the appropriate language added to the law as part of the 2019-20 state budget process.
The city has since reapplied for permission to set up the loan program. The application is under review by the relevant departments, a state spokesperson said.
Local officials believe the program could play an important role in spurring redevelopment on Manor Street and other neighborhood commercial corridors.
The CRIZ program’s funding comes from business taxes paid by city companies in a designated zone. The vast majority is revenue that would otherwise go to the state.