Philly push to address papal concerns not reaching business owners

 Employees of Parkside Beef & Ale, which will be in the high-security

Employees of Parkside Beef & Ale, which will be in the high-security "red zone" when Pope Francis is in town, have no idea how they will get to work. (Emma Lee/NewsWorks)

On Monday, the city of Philadelphia launched a hotline and resource center to help businesses plan for next month’s papal visit. However, the city admits it has more work to do to get the word out.

Parkside Beef and Ale on 15th and Arch streets will be right in the “red zone” where security will be tightest when Pope Francis is in town.

Daytime manager and bartender Augusta Mason lives in Northeast Philly and has no idea how she’s going to get to work. She’s even tried asking the city employees who are her regulars for advice.

“We’re hoping that as the days draw nigh, we’ll be able to have someone come out and let us know exactly what’s going to happen, how we are to get in here,” she said. “Even our suppliers are frustrated.”

When asked by a reporter if she’s called the city’s new Business Resource Center to get more information, Mason was not aware that it existed.

“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” she said.

A couple storefronts down at Foods on First, manager Aldo Salazar said he hasn’t heard of the center either.

“No, not yet, we haven’t gotten any number where we can call to get more information,” said Salazar, who has been regularly watching the news and scanning the newspapers for more information.

Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger acknowledged that the effort has not reached everyone yet. He said the resource center has gotten just over 140 calls in the last three days, mostly from Center City businesses with logistical questions about deliveries and lodging for employees.

“Many of the questions we’re able to answer on the spot with simply facts, as they are out there right now in public,” Greenberger said. “And then a number of the questions need follow up.”

Nine employees with the city’s Commerce Department are manning the phones from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. According to Greenberger, those staffers are calling back business owners whose questions can’t be answered right away. 

For more information, visit The Business Resource Center’s number is (215) 683-2100.

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