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Democrats Disappoint Local Businesses With PM-CVN--The Road Ahead

July 17, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ It was a vanishing dream for some local merchants: visions of big bucks and free spenders didn’t materialize during the Democratic National Convention’s four-day run.

Organizers predicted the average visitor would drop $353 a day. But with freebies galore and delegates meeting in the evenings, businesses complained Thursday the bottom line was nowhere near what they expected.

″We really haven’t done that well at all,″ said Joan Sirabella, bar manager at Eamonn Doran, a restaurant near Madison Square Garden where the Democrats convened. ″We’re very disappointed.″

Business owners complained that potential customers were scared off by endless traffic jams, demonstrations or police blockades.

Sam Metropoulos, owner of Kuklas Bar and Grill, said, ″Because of all the security around here, people are staying away - and it’s killing business.″

″We’re only getting about one customer an hour - it’s unbelievable. The Democrats should try another city next time,″ said Ferdinand Lopez, manager of a bookstore located in an area that was accessible only to people with convention credentials.

The convention brought in 40,000 people who were expected to generate nearly $500 million in economic activity by spending money on things like fancy dinners, hotel rooms, T-shirts, cab rides and Broadway plays.

Businesses decorated in red, white and blue, and some staged lavish promotional events. Macy’s threw a big bash for the California delegation, put on fashion shows and passed out free tote bags to delegates.

Macy’s spokeswoman Liz Holland would not say how the store made out this week, but a men’s department salesman put it this way: ″We were pretty busy, but we expected a lot more.″

That sentiment was echoed by salespeople at the nearby A&S department store and others who hoped to see delegates leave more dollars behind.

″We’ve been selling more sodas - that’s it,″ said Imroz Khan, manager of the Just 99 Cents discount store.

Restaurants got a bonanza of publicity - especially when some gourmet spots offered bargain lunches at $19.92. But the convention was in session during the prime evening hours and dinner sales were reported disappointing at places like Mama Leone’s and the Sea Grill in Rockefeller Center.

Ron Stoppleman, head of the Metropolitan Taxi Board of Trade, called the convention a great thing ″for everybody but the yellow cabbies.″

Cabs couldn’t get near the Garden because of the traffic while free shuttle buses rolled right up to the front door, he said. ″We were left hanging. It’s a disgrace.″

Tom Hitchcock, owner of J.J. Applebaum’s Deli, said it was ″a terrible week. They bus the delegates in and out, so they never come in, and the regular customers stay away because they think it will be so packed and so crazy.″

One economic bright spot: strip shows. Tom Paraza, marketing director for Flash Dancers topless club in midtown Manhattan, said gross receipts were up 25 percent. The take at a downtown competitor, Gold Fingers, was up 100 percent, said manager Jay Kranitz.

But some visitors said they were just too busy to open their wallets for leisurely meals or shopping sprees.

″I haven’t spent much because I just haven’t had time,″ said Michigan delegate Pat Koszka. ″What little time I’ve had, I’ve spent sightseeing.″

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