The RNC's Spending Footprint May Have Been Pretty Small

[photo: Matt Richmond / ideastream]
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A light crowd was at the seafood spot, the Nauti Mermaid in the Warehouse District, for a late lunch on the last day of the Republican National Convention.

 A few of the patrons are wore convention badges. Another was hunched over a laptop, enjoying the restaurant’s AC on a hot day. Jeffrey Hassan is the Nauti Mermaid’s owner. He says most of the traffic in this part of town has been between noon and eight.

“I don’t know if there’s a lot more private parties than we thought there would be or if they’re just tired after the convention going back to the hotel. People we know who either work or manage at hotel bars say late night they’ve had no business either," said Hassan, who did better than normal business just not what he expect.

The RNC ended in Cleveland on Thursday night and the local organizers and officials have received widespread praise. But one of the hopes leading into the convention – for a substantial, immediate economic boost – may not have panned out. As it turned out, the spending appears to have been concentrated in only a few places.

Mike Smith is a part owner of Marigold Catering, working inside the Q. Before the convention, he expected to book several private events nearby. But he says a lack of corporate sponsors for those events made bookings hard to come by.

“Everything I’ve heard around town, it wasn’t just us, people thought they would be booking like crazy and the events just never hit so we were prepared with staff from out-of-state and we had booked hotels and we had booked lodging for people and we ended up having to cancel most of it," said Smith. "Things just didn’t fall the way we had hoped they would fall.” 

Sitting in the stands at Progressive Field, Smith had a few free minutes on the convention’s second day as the program inside the Q was getting started. Attendees milled around the plaza, having drinks and enjoying the sunny weather. After a few hectic days setting up, including one 25 hours long, Tuesday was calm.  

“Our total meals served was just over 3000 and our total drinks served was 6500, 7000," said Smith.

And that’s just on Monday, the first day of the convention. Next to the Indians home field, vendors were selling convention souvenirs. Anne Mulholland owns Mulholland and Sachs, a gift shop in Woodmere. She says people started coming into the secure area at the Q up to three or four hours before the convention program started each day.

“So we would open our curtains and like people are rushing in to buy things…so we have been here at noon and one everyday, instead of like four o’clock," said Mulholland.

And when the event ended every night at 11 or so, the buses outside the doors took the convention goers away. Mulholland says some people stuck around for a little while, but it seemed to her that most were getting on their buses and leaving downtown.

But that’s not to say that everyone outside of the Q and the security zone was left wondering where all the customers went. Along East Fourth and a few blocks in either direction on Euclid, there was heavy foot traffic all day and into the night. Large media organizations like MSNBC, CNN and Twitter set up on East Fourth. Vendors, protestors and musicians crowded the sidewalks on Euclid.

Bloom Bakery on Euclid Avenue opened 24-hours-a-day to cater to convention goers. Logan Fahey is the general manager. He said that, during convention week, many of their customers were out-of-town media who love few things more than free wi-fi, air conditioning and caffeine.

“So normally about 60-70 percent of our clientele is from the Huntington, previous BP Tower, and so the tower shut down, the atrium shut down and so we lost that 100 percent," said Fahey.

Fahey says if they weren’t so close to East Fourth the week would have been very different. Down a few blocks at Tower City Shoe Shine, Londale Smith and Ray Williams doubled their hours during the convention. But the business just hasn’t been there. Williams says the out of town visitors haven’t been getting a shine.

“These people are just visiting, now whether they’re cheap or whatever, we gotta keep going you so know so we gotta let people know we are here and we’re available," said Williams.

But they both say this has still been a great week for the city.

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