Jul 30, 2014

Lack of RNC Crowds Upsets Tampa Business Owners

Instead of a financial windfall, these restaurant owners say they can't wait for the RNC to be over.

Lack of RNC Crowds Upsets Tampa Business Owners Lack of RNC Crowds Upsets Tampa Business Owners

The owners of The Metro Restaraunt and Lounge on North Franklin Street in downtown Tampa were looking forward to working their usual 15 hour days this week. At lunch they hoped the lounge would be packed with delegates in town for the nearby . At dinner they were looking forward to tables surrounded by some of the estimated 50,000 visitors in Tampa for the convention.

Instead, owners Marc Zolkowski and Bill Nelligar, from Wesley Chappel, are sitting at the bar, alone, sipping beer and wondering what happened.

"The way the City (of Tampa) and the Downtown Partnership put it out, we'd have 50,000 visitors and we'd be swamped," said Zolkowski. 

The three owners of The Metro figured this week would be a good time to start serving lunch in addition to their regular dinner menu. Instead of the busy lounge and bustling bar area, sales have dropped more than 95% this week, according to Zolkowski.

"We were told this would be our Christmas," Nelligar added. "Instead we have food rotting."

Adding to their concern, they say, is the worry that they are not alone.

"Every restaurant I know on this street has been severely hurt by the RNC," Nelligar said. 

Zolkowski says he thinks that the large police presence and the media's focus on the expected large crowds has kept people from coming into the city.

"Most of our regulars are gone. They're afraid to go downtown," Zolkowski said. 

During his daily press briefing, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn addressed the issue of some businesses not being as busy as others.

"There will be businesses that won't do as good as they hope, but also, a multitude that will do better than they've done all year," Buckhorn said.

For the owners of The Metro, they just hope they can hang on until their regulars return again.

"We are praying for Friday, we want these people gone," said Nelligar.

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