TAMPA – The Republican National Convention was expected to bring more than 50,000 people to downtown Tampa, generating tens of million of dollars for the local economy, but downtown business owners said Tuesday the temporary security state is hurting their bottom lines.
And the same may hold true for businesses in uptown Charlotte next week when the Democratic National Convention gets underway.
"I've been on this street for 31 years and this is the worst i have ever seen,” said Marty Greenwald, who runs a hot dog business.
Greenwald is open for business in downtown Tampa during the RNC but he's just not getting any.
"All this hype about the media and everybody being here before and getting ready – nothing, absolutely nothing," he said.
Greenwald's hot dog business sits just yards from one of several RNC security barriers along Franklin Street, affecting through traffic and customers.
"I think I'm in a third-world country looking at these things," Greenwald said.
Across the way, Fresh manager Bryan Goodell said he's getting just 10 percent of normal business. Lines that normally go out the door during peak times were gone and tables sat mostly empty.
"I don't know if it's weather, security fears, maybe they haven't gotten here yet, I don't know, but as you can see, they're not here," he said.
Tampa residents who are working downtown during the RNC are also adjusting to the site of concrete barricades; deputies on foot, cart and horseback; and traffic checkpoints and delays.
"I live about 30 minutes from here and it took me about an hour and a half to get here," resident Heather Paoli said.
With uptown Charlotte getting a similar security setup next week during the DNC, Tampa residents and business owners had this advice.
"Just be expecting a lot of security, police officers, military, and secret service all around,” Paoli said.
"Don't believe the hype, OK. Go ahead for a normal day, if you see a little bit of an increase, then pick it up from there," Greenwald said.
Downtown Tampa business owners and managers were hopeful that customers would pick up as he RNC week continued, but security barriers greeting nearly every block makes it a wait-and-see situation.
An outside research firm predicted the RNC would generate between $153 million and $173 million, that's on par with economic impact estimates for Charlotte and the DNC.