Thursday, January 18, 2018
Business

Mapping out convention traffic

ST. PETERSBURG — The Republican National Convention is shining the spotlight on Tampa Bay but road closings and parking restrictions may make it hard to get to some businesses.

Most, however, won't be affected very much.

St. Petersburg has fewer disruptions than Tampa, but because of delegates and other guests staying at several downtown hotels, there is limited or no parking on various streets for a week. Also, the welcome party at Tropicana Field on Aug. 26 calls for road closings and no-parking zones from Saturday evening until early Aug. 27.

"It's a good and bad situation," said Domenic D'Angelo, owner of Gratzzi Italian Grille at 211 Second St. S. "It's once in a lifetime that the RNC is here in the Tampa Bay region. It's really going to put us on the map. The bad thing is we already have limited parking on this street."

Parking won't be allowed across from his restaurant along two blocks of Second Street S for eight nights and seven days between Thursday and Aug. 31. Restaurant patrons who park behind the restaurant in the Publix parking lot will be towed.

So D'Angelo is renting spaces in a nearby parking garage for his customers. He has made similar arrangements during the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and it works out okay, he said. Still, he worries local residents might not even venture out much the week of the convention because they are wary of traffic and parking disruptions.

"On the other hand, we hope the delegates and their families come see us," D'Angelo said optimistically.

Jay Anderson owns the Sparkle Car Wash at 114 16th St. N. Parking and traffic will be restricted all of Aug. 26 during the welcome party.

"It will affect me probably," Anderson said, adding that Sunday is one of the busier days of the week in the carwash business. "I'm certainly happy to have it here and get the city shown off, and maybe that translates into something the whole city can benefit from, so I'm not going to worry about it. If it's raining that day I won't miss anything because (customers) wouldn't come anyway."

Russ Bond, manager of the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, thinks tourists won't be concerned that the convention in Tampa could cause obstacles in St. Petersburg.

"My sense is if there's a group of people out there who are going to come to town, they have no indication that anything is going on (in St. Petersburg) while they are on their summer vacation,'' he said.

Though there will be no parking allowed around the Vinoy on various blocks of Fifth Avenue NE, Seventh Avenue NE and Beach Drive NE, the hotel will have plenty of room for locals and tourists in its parking garage.

"I'm guessing a lot of people attending the convention will not have rental cars,'' Bond said. "From a local perspective, a lot of people will be out of town taking that last week of vacation. We should be fine on available garage space."

The list of restricted parking around the Vinoy at 501 Fifth Ave. NE, the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront at 333 First St. S and the Courtyard by Marriott at 300 Fourth St. N was determined by local, state and federal law enforcement and public safety agencies, including the Secret Service.

It's not clear why some street parking is banned, though buses will be transporting some hotel guests to and from events in Tampa so they will need room to maneuver around the hotels.

"We have certain needs for these areas," said St. Petersburg police Lt. William Korinek.

While some of the highest-profile hotels aren't hosting state delegations, they're still likely to have high-profile guests.

"Between us and the Don and the Sandpearl (hotel at Clearwater Beach) and the Hyatt Clearwater Beach, none of us have (state) delegations,'' Bond said. "So then you start deducing who else would stay with you. It's probably donors and corporate executives and maybe politicians."

The Hilton is hosting delegates from North Carolina. Of the Courtyard by Mariott's 128 rooms, 100 are set aside for the convention, according to manager Kathy Cablish. Since it isn't hosting a state delegation, she doesn't know who or what group is staying there yet.

Coney Island Sandwich Shop at 250 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N is along the designated protest parade route. The street will be closed to traffic from 5 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Aug. 27.

"It shouldn't affect us because we close at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and we'll be out of there by then," said manager Gayle Kelley. The shop is closed on Sundays.

Other businesses such as construction and car repair outlets along First Avenue N and First Avenue S are also closed on Sunday while traffic and parking are affected by the party at the Trop.

Residents who live on blocks that are closed to parking or traffic will need to plan ahead to get in and out of the area, Korinek said.

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