CLEVELAND – While bars and restaurants along East 4th Street thrived during the RNC, business came to a screeching halt for Akin Alafin, who owns Stonetown on Prospect Avenue.
“Based on our location, we figured all the traffic would be here. We overstaffed, over-shopped for inventory, applied for the 4 a.m. liquor license,” said Alafin.
But his restaurant ended up blocked by barricades, despite being steps away from East 4th Street.
“If you didn’t walk up to the barricade and say, I am going to Stonetown, you weren’t getting through. How can you ask to go to a restaurant if you don’t know it’s there because you aren’t allowed to walk past?” said Alafin.
From the bars on West 6th Street to the East End of the Flats, it appeared that the downtown bar scene was dead.
“We did average. But business for the neighborhood on the whole was down,” said Will Hollingsworth, who owns the Spotted Owl in Tremont.
Hollingsworth says many locals decided to work from home and then stayed away due to protesters.
“What we found was that the RNC disrupted everyone’s rhythm in a fundamental way. A lot of people who normally go out were not going out,” said Hollingsworth.
But business is picking back up in Ohio City one day after the RNC.
“I gave my staff a garden hose analogy. As a kid, if you kink it, when you let it go, the force is huge and a lot of water comes out. We are seeing that now with people who are coming back downtown,” said Sam McNulty, who owns multiple spots along West 25th Street.
And while it’s still too early to calculate the economonic impact of the RNC, most restaurant owners can agree it was not what they were expecting.
“I think the city will see some long-term benefit that is much more important than the past four days,” said McNulty.
“I am hoping that people will come back out, interact with their city, be proud of their city, and have fun,” said Hollingsworth.