Verdict’s in on business-killing DNC: It’s a bust
By Greg Gatlin and Casey Ross
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Promises of a Democratic convention windfall now seem as empty as Boston's streets this week to many Hub merchants, restaurants, tourist sites and small businesses.
``Never in the 33 years we've been here have we seen anything like it,'' said George George, co-owner of the Albany Sandwich Shop in the South End, who said his business this week is off by as much as 50 percent. ``It's like a snowstorm in the middle of summer, only in a snowstorm we get the plow drivers.''
Through all but the last day of the four-day convention, the event has not been a boon, interviews with dozens of Hub businesses revealed. In fact, many say they've lost out as residents and workers skipped town and delegates ate for free at high-end parties.
Many restaurant owners double-ordered produce and other supplies last week with the expectation that deliveries would be blocked and convention traffic would quickly leave them with nothing to serve.
Instead, they say, refrigerators are overstocked, delivery trucks are managing with few problems and customer traffic has slowed to a trickle as the convention sucks up all the action like a corporate sponge.
Even on Beacon Hill, where wide-eyed Democrats were expected to make plenty of pilgrimages, cafe and restaurant owners say the convention has been a security dead zone.
``Everyone is on edge and nervous,'' said David Cartwright, manager of Cafe Vanille on Charles Street. ``Boston is still in many ways a small town, and the security arrangements have been a major undertaking.''
In the North End, there were hints that business was improving last night.
``We had a good rush from some people who went to the convention,'' said Paulo DiGiovanni of Massimino's on Endicott Street. But, he added the restaurant's regular customers were still missing.
And yet, there are sectors of the business community that have greatly benefited. Those hosting, catering or organizing the scores of parties surrounding the convention saw revenue skyrocket.
Hotels in Boston and Cambridge did better than expected, with about 95 percent of rooms full. For some, including the Boston Harbor Hotel, it was a record week.
Paul Guzzi, chief executive of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, called the event ``a home run'' for businesses and the community that will jump-start future economic activity, including conventions.
The Boston Redevelopment Authority will not revise its $154 million economic impact estimate, said spokeswoman Susan Elsbree. ``You can't measure economic development in four days,'' Elsbree said.
Mayor Thomas Menino and other officials had billed the convention as an economic shot in the arm for the region, but most of the benefits have been channeled to big business. Many of Boston's mom-and-pops watched the convention parade pass them by.
``Given all the hype, it's definitely been a big disappointment,'' said Boston Beer Works general manager Joe Ferrari. ``It's not enough to make up for all the inconvenience.''
Greg Muzzy, whose Liberty Clipper tall ship can carry 110 passengers, shut down yesterday due to a lack of business. Earlier this week, he had just a handful of passengers. ``We're probably losing about $20,000 (in revenue),'' he said, adding that had Sail Boston not been canceled, he would have brought in $150,000 during that event.
Still, Muzzy and some other business owners remain upbeat, saying the convention will boost Boston's image.
``It's only one week,'' said Michael Conlon, whose Eat Drink Laugh Restaurant Group sales are off about 25 percent. ``Boston is on center stage . . . and hopefully that will be good for us.''
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