Despite the often dark windows and the for sale sign in front of Infusions Dining and Spirits, the locally owned business is still open in its downtown location — now just two days a week.
But in the last month, Infusions has been sued by the Small Business Development Center for an unpaid loan, and has been cited for fire code violations that include allegations of illegally operating a bar upstairs.
Owner Renea Turner says she is working out a new agreement to pay back the SBDC loan, which is funded with city dollars, and claims the upstairs bar is a rumor.
“It’s the good-old boys clubs doing what they do best,” Turner said. “The second-story bar is just a rumor. They never proved it and never came during hours because it never existed.”
Assistant Fire Chief Brian Miller was involved with the initial fire code inspection in April. He said they had complaints that something was going on in the second floor.
“On the second floor of the building where we investigated, we found that the second floor did have some parties or some assembly,” Miller said.
According to the citation notice filed by the Springfield Fire Rescue Division, the second floor was set up with bar equipment and furniture, and the windows were covered or had mirrors in front of them.
In order to operate on the second floor, Infusions would have to comply to different occupancy codes, as well as install some fire safety measures such as sprinklers.
According to the citation notice, Turner was ordered to remove all bar equipment and furniture from the second floor and to not have any activity in the building until a correct certificate of occupancy was purchased.
Inspectors made note of the for sale sign in the window. In the citation, owner of the building Art Wilson said the tenant was not selling the business but was having financial issues.
Turner said the business has struggled since opening because there isn’t enough parking by the restaurant. For that reason, she chose to only open on weekend evenings. Previously the restaurant was open daily and served lunch.
“It has inhibited our way of doing business over here,” Turner said. “We had to shut down our lunch. The parking lot is full of downtown city employees from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., so we have to dictate our business plans around that.”
The business is now open after 6 p.m. on weekends, and Turner said they no longer serve as much food.
“Everything is a lot cheaper now because we have to do that to get people to come downtown,” Turner said.
Because of the businesses struggle, Turner has had issues with a $45,000 SBDC loan she received. According to Clark County Common Pleas Court documents, SBDC is suing Infusions for $41,350.43 plus interest.
SBDC officials would not comment on the loan issue. But the SBDC board approved the loan last May despite Turner’s history.
Last year, the police recommended prevent Turner from getting a liquor license because of issues at her previous business, dance club “Bottoms Up.” Police said they had many serious calls, including at least one call about a patron with a weapon.
“From a loan standpoint, everyone understood it’s a high-risk loan, just because restaurants in general are a high-risk loan opportunity,” said Tom Franzen, city economic development director and assistant city manager. He is on the SBDC board that approved the loan.
Franzen said Infusions’ equipment, as well as several of Turner’s rental properties, were pledged as collateral if she could not pay the loan.
The board “felt it was adequately covered by the borrower. I think people wanted to believe it could work and saw the need for that restaurant to continue to provide service to the community,” Franzen said. “It’s in a prime location, given all of the investment, and it’s an area of interest for the city right now.”
The city is currently working on converting the block of North Fountain between Columbia and Main streets, where Infusions is located, into a two-way street by November. The city has also proposed a nearly $10 million parking garage on that block.