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Local economist says bar industry needs targeted assistance along with stimulus package



FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Legislators continue to discuss a new stimulus package, and the Biden administration rolled out its plan Thursday. A local economist said new stimulus checks would help some Fayetteville business owners, but certain sectors need extra assistance.

Jamie Wilson owns C4 Nightclub and Lounge in Fayetteville. In an early January interview, he described a problem many bar owners face: dwindling revenues and a potential future closure.

“Our sales numbers are still just as when we visited last time,” Wilson said Thursday. “They’re still very low.”

Strapped by restrictions and COVID-related loss of business, Wilson said it’s disheartening to turn people away when they show up after the government-mandated closing time.

“You can watch the cameras,” Wilson said. “People are trying to come in after 11 p.m. because they’re not used to that.”

Since predicting C4 had about a month to go before shutting down, Wilson went to the public for help.

“The GoFundMe I think is a little over $6000,” Wilson said. “That’ll get us through a whole month, so that’s freaking awesome.”

Asking for donations ended up being more effective than going through the governmental assistance loan programs Wilson said he’s spent hours applying for.

“Besides having to swallow your pride and ask for that, it was honestly much easier, and it was more money,” Wilson said.

David Sorto is an economist for the University of Arkansas. He said the proposed stimulus plan would help many people who simply need cashflow as the pandemic continues.

“If it can get through Congress, it’ll be a very big help,” Sorto said.

Sorto said targeted relief to some industries could have a bigger impact on places like C4. He said state legislators need to focus on continuing to replenish the loan funds created to help small businesses.

“The stimulus paycheck would help those folks,” Sorto said. “It’s not going to alleviate all of their issues.”

Wilson said he’s applied to the replenished grant program, and the donations will keep him afloat. The help has given him hope, and he thinks C4 will be a place that brings people together when the pandemic ends.

“Of course C4’s needed,” Wilson said. “That’s what America needs.”

Wilson said there will be a big celebration at C4 when this period in our history is over.

“It will be the best time we’ve ever had,” Wilson said.