Controller says retail and restaurants lost due to papal visit

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 Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A report by the Philadelphia City Controller’s office finds many downtown business didn’t do so well with the papal visit.

The un-scientific survey of businesses within the papal visit area shows that hotels did well, but retail and restaurants didn’t profit from the papal visit.  Controller Alan Butkovitz said he was worried about the security restrictions even before they were put in place.

“Three restaurants, one in Washington Square had 57 total tables, which is 250 below what they would have in a normal week,” Butkovitz said. “A restaurant in Rittenhouse Square had 40 percent of their normal business, and another Washington Square restaurant had a third of their normal business.”

The controller attributes the drop to the security restrictions put in place by the Secret Service for the pope’s visit.

“The restaurants were encouraged to stock up and buy extra food when it was foreseeable and many of them made the choice to close down, and unfortunately that was the smart choice,” he said.

Hotels reported about 90 percent occupancy because of the papal visit and the World Meeting of Families.

Mayor Michael Nutter’s spokesman Mark McDonald said that the papal visit was never designed to be an economic generator.

“Some businesses decided to close, others stayed open and of the latter, each had to make personal decisions about hours and offerings,” McDonald said in a statement. “But ahead of the weekend, the City’s Commerce Department spent weeks working with businesses on issues related to deliveries, trash collection and the event impact.”

“Hopefully the Controller has issued his last negative report about the World Meeting Of Families event and the Papal visit, since he has tried numerous times now to cast a negative perspective on this hugely successful event for the many Pilgrims who came to see and hear Pope Francis,” McDonald’s statement continued. “Obviously the Controller missed Pope Francis’ message and concerns about materialism and capitalism.”

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