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Mayor Buckhorn: Downtown Business Owners Could Sink or Swim During RNC

Some business owners say they haven't had many patrons this week during the Republican National Convention.

Today marks the halfway point of the Republican National Convention, netting only a handful of arrests and far fewer protesters than law enforcement officials had predicted.

During a Wednesday morning briefing at the Tampa Convention Center, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor addressed those issues in addition to what some would call the economic elephant in the room: The lack of patrons visiting downtown businesses this week.

Although 50,000 people were expected to be downtown during the convention, business owners say they've seen fewer patrons than normal due to enhanced security measures that prevent the public from regular access to their shops, and convention events on Monday being canceled because of inclement weather.

"We knew going in there'd be businesses who had expectations that wouldn't be met, and businesses who would underestimate how successful it would be," Buckhorn said during the briefing. "Businesses close to the perimeter haven't had the traffic."

Buckhorn said some businesses have had "the best week" they've had in awhile, before naming Bern's Steakhouse and areas of town that included Ybor City.

But downtown businesses are a different story.

"Folks have stayed away because of the checkpoints," Buckhorn said. "Some retail establishments off Franklin Street and the immediate downtown area haven't experienced success ... there's nothing I can do about it. It's the reality of a post 9/11 world."

Police Chief Jane Castor said there had only been three arrests since the beginning of the convention, and that tight security downtown will be eased at midnight tomorrow.

Castor said members of law enforcement - about 4,000 from more than 50 agencies statewide - have interacted well with the community and convention-goers, adding that an "after-action report" of the successes and failures of the convention will be created and reviewed later.

Buckhorn and Castor said officials from Charlotte, N.C., the site of the Democratic National Convention next week, are in Tampa this week learning the ins and outs of putting on a convention.

Buckhorn's advice for them?

"You really have to be fluid and nimble," he said. "You have to recognize that and understand this is a very dynamic environment, and to not get rattled."

The tone of the briefing shifted when a reporter asked Buckhorn what he thought about Jon Stewart making jokes about

Said Buckhorn: "If people remember Tampa, even if it is for giant, man-eating palmetto bugs, I'll take it."

Scott August 29, 2012 at 05:20 PM
The truth is, unless you are a hotel or bar/restaurant, you are out of luck. The organizing committee did a terrible job including any businesses in their planning. In an attempt to register for their "small business" directory you need to have been invited. Just take a look at the directory . . . only three clothing stores and 26 restaurants "qualified" as worthy of mention in the directory. Really - that's all they could find? My business has had two women from the convention in to shop. They were lovely people, but when it came time for these out of state women to check out, they requested that they be rung up as an out of state internet sale so that they could avoid paying the local taxes. Thanks for using our tax funded convention facilities, roads, bridges and security and not wanting to leave a dime to help pay for it. BTW - I made them pay the 7% sales tax that the rest of us are required to pay. The economic impact of the event to Tampa's local businesses is next to nothing and when combined with the cost of hosting, is probably a negative. And, Mr. Mayor, make jokes if you must, but small business owners are not laughing with you. If people leave Tampa with nothing but memories of bugs then Tampa should feel shame.
Nick Schutz August 29, 2012 at 05:42 PM
"There's nothing I can do about it." That sums up Mayor Buckhorn's approach to governance. What a disappointment. I haven't seen any progress on the blight in the historic downtown core and his failed leadership during the convention seems to be making things worse. We need good government from people who put our community and local business first. Not these ego-driven schoozy politicians. And if Castor thinks law enforcement has interracted well with the community she is mistaken. And community support and involvement is critical to effective policing.

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