Businesses inside St. Patrick's Day enhanced security zone feel impact

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Businesses inside the enhanced security zone for Saturday's St. Patrick's Day Parade and vice presidential visit say new, last-minute restrictions will impact their bottom line.

The enhanced security zone includes Johnson and Wright Squares and The Collins Quarter on Bull Street. The cafe hosts a private event for the day, and now must make last minute changes, like reducing the number of people attending.

"We do closed, private events on St. Patrick's Day, so now we've promised 80 people, who have paid a substantial amount of money to have an explicit experience, that they were going to get chairs and beverages outside," said Patrick Bransfield, a barista at The Collins Quarter. "Now, we actually can't provide that experience to them."

Chairs are one of the many things not allowed in this zone, and with reduced seating, the restaurant has to cut reservations to many people who made plans well in advance of the holiday.

"To last minute, 60 something hours out, cut that from them is not going to be ideal for us," Bransfield said. "I'm sure we'll receive some flack from them."

On a typical Saturday, Bransfield says the restaurant serves about 500, and each person spends about $25. On St. Patrick's Day, the restaurant loses about 25 percent of its profits and reducing the number attending the private event means about a 50 percent cut.

"We're going to lose thousands of dollars, to put it bluntly," Bransfield said. "There's really no other way to put it."

The city said Wednesday it is working with other businesses in the enhanced security zone, like CVS, to stop the sale of alcohol and other banned items, like razors, during the vice president's visit.

"I think St. Patrick's Day is a challenge for all of us and an opportunity for many businesses," said Karen Guinn, President of the Downtown Business Association. "We hope that the city is working diligently to minimize the impacts to our downtown businesses, and we, of course, will be advocating on their behalf, but when it's the White House, it kind of trumps everything."

The city knows the changes will alter some plans, but ensures those making plans are focused on keeping this event fun for locals.

"We are keeping the residents' interest at heart as much as possible," said Michelle Gavin, Director of Public Communications for the City of Savannah. "Please keep in mind that this is a very special visitor who is coming, the Vice President of the United States, and with that visit comes enhanced security, but also know that city staff, members of the police department, even members of the Secret Service live here in the Savannah community, and we are working to try to make this parade as enjoyable as possible. One of the people I was talking to who lives and works downtown said to me, 'Isn't it a great story to tell that the reason I wasn't in Johnson Square that year is because the vice president came to visit?' So, at least we're giving you a good story, I guess, to go with it. We do apologize for the inconvenience this is going to cause. We hope that families will be able to use this information to plan ahead, look at the other parts of the parade route that will be available, and to work with us to make the best of this historic visit."

That's what The Collins Quarter is hoping to do, too.

"We're just going to run and gun make the most of it," Bransfield said. "We will have to cut some of the reservations. We're already down 25 percent. We're going to be down even more in terms of revenue from that, but I mean, people that come, they're still going to have a great time. We'll make the best of it like we always do."

The enhanced security zone will be closed from 4 a.m.- 7 a.m. Saturday morning for a security sweep. It will open from 7 a.m.- 10 a.m. and close again ahead of the parade. The city estimates the enhanced security will be removed by 1 p.m.

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