Thursday, May 6, 2004

Restaurant that trains disabled needs a hand



By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - A Northern Kentucky restaurant that has served as a training ground for developmentally disabled adults the past 22 years is struggling to stay in business.

The Point Restaurant and Catering Co. in downtown Covington has operated in the red the past five years, and operators are appealing to the public to help erase its $60,000 deficit.

"The Point Restaurant has been providing high school students and adults with developmental disabilities real-life, hands-on, paid training since 1982,'' the nonprofit organization says in its current newsletter. "Even though we are a training program . . . our restaurant's deficit over the last five years has increased. We need your help NOW to decrease this deficit and expand sales, enabling us to train even more individuals.''

Lawyer Dennis Williams, who often walks across the street from the Adams, Stepner, Woltermann & Dusing law firm for lunch, says he likes The Point Restaurant because "it's convenient, clean and has great food.''

"If we have meetings in our office, we'll get their boxed lunches,'' Williams said. "Most of our employees eat lunch here.''

The restaurant shares a name with its nonprofit operator, which offers educational, vocational, residential and social opportunities to developmentally disabled adults in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties. The agency also operates a commercial cleaning company and laundry to train mentally retarded and developmentally disabled adults for jobs that are often hard to fill.

"We're not out to make money,'' said Gary Gammon, special projects and media director for The Point agency. "We just want to break even. "We look at the restaurant as a training site that helps our trainees and the community at large.''

Operators of The Point Restaurant blame the eatery's financial woes on everything from its location to the sluggish economy.

The Park and Court area near the Kenton County administration building "has seen restaurants open to no end in recent years,'' said Jo Ann Mahorney, assistant director of The Point agency. The departure of businesses near The Point also has reduced the walk-in traffic that the restaurant relies on, she said.

"Most people get a half-hour for lunch, and it's hard to walk up here and eat lunch,'' Mahorney said.

Andy Riffe, Covington's assistant city manager who oversees economic development, agreed that the cluster of restaurants in the Park and Court area "often play off one another'' when it comes to attracting customers. He said the Pike Street area has gained businesses during the past year, but many of those operate at night when The Point's closed.

E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com




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