CHARLOTTE — Millions of dollars for Charlotte businesses appear to be lost because of the coronavirus. Now, President Donald Trump and the Republican Party are searching for a new site for the Republican National Convention, which was supposed to be held in August in uptown.
“We need to hear directly from the RNC in very plain terms what their expectations are,” said Patrick Baker, the Charlotte city attorney.
Local area businesses said that decision could be another financial blow.
“I think it would have put Charlotte back on the road to recovery economically,” said John Ellison, owner of The Gin Mill.
Ellison said The Gin Mill and his neighboring business, Amos’ South End, are completely booked each night during the RNC.
“The same group was renting both places all nights and had different groups coming in each night,” Ellison said. “Basically, a quarter million dollars in revenue.”
He was hoping the economic impact from the RNC would help make up some of the losses from COVID-19 closures.
“It would have definitely made up for all the lost revenue during the two-and-a-half months the Gin Mill was closed and potentially five to six months Amos’ is going to be closed,” Ellison said.
"It would be a real shame if they didn’t come," said Mital, owner of Brazz Carvery and Brazilian Steakhouse.
The restaurant, which is across the street from the Charlotte Convention Center, was quiet Wednesday during the lunch rush.
"We’ve opened back up for lunch and dinner, but lunch business really heavily relies on offices being here and nobody is here but construction workers, so it's been tough," Mital said.
Businesses uptown were hoping for a bump in business from the RNC after the significant impact from COVID-19.
“We were really looking forward to having them here -- we just don’t know right now,” Mital said. “At this point, we’ll take anything over nothing even if it’s at 50%. It’s still busy for the city, and it’s still business for us.”
Lee Helms, who is president and CEO of Sunway Charters, said they’ve lost $4 million in sales because of the pandemic.
“It’s killed us, and you can see the whole yard is full of buses,” Helms said. “Shouldn’t be that way. Pretty much RNC was going to be a savior for the summer.”
Parts of the RNC may still take place in Charlotte. The latest statement from the Republican National Committee said in part: “Should the governor allow more than 10 people in a room; we still hope to conduct the official business of the convention in Charlotte.”
What official business means, is not clear.
“What are the intentions of the RNC?” Baker asked. “What is the convention going to look like? What is their plan, and we need to know them much sooner than later.”
Helms said they had about $300,000 in sales already booked for the week of the RNC, and a scaled-down convention would be significant.
“Oh yes, because they'd have to do more buses to keep the social distance and all that stuff right,” Helms said.
Both businesses reflected on the impact of the Democratic National Convention and are holding out hope that some piece of the convention stays put.
“It’s a big deal,” Helms said.
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