Make us your home page

RNC slows, complicates business in downtown Tampa

Tuesday was far from business as usual in downtown Tampa.

The work-a-day office crowd gave way to hundreds of security and police officers, some pockets of protestors and vendors, and the occasional flurry of media or convention workers and delegates in the blocks surrounding the convention center and the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Outside the BB&T branch on N Tampa Street — shuttered like most of the bank branches downtown — the only sign of activity was a half-dozen state troopers resting on the building ledge. "Closed" signs dotted the windows of a smattering of retail businesses, from convenience stores to florists to dry cleaners.

For visitors, it was a crapshoot whether a given business was open. Need to mail a package at the downtown FedEx? You were in luck. Not so much if you wanted to cash a check.

Inside the "Designing Eyes" optical store, optician Sharon Kyte was open, waiting for customers behind the storefront's plate glass front window reinforced with 3M film thanks to her landlord, Bank of America.

Tuesdays are usually busy with walk-ins and glass fittings every half-hour. Her sole customer Tuesday morning was a convention visitor needing an emergency fix after a lens had popped out of his eyeglasses.

Kyte had already lost one day of business, staying home with her kids when the threat of Tropical Storm Isaac closed schools Monday. She couldn't afford to lose another day. "I have no choice," she said. "I'm a small business, and I need to make money."

A florist two doors down was closed, however, out of concern that delivery trucks couldn't readily navigate the orange cones and barricades along N Tampa Street.

Organizers of the Republic National Convention, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, initially urged the estimated 50,000 downtown Tampa workers to come to work this week. The idea was to showcase a vibrant downtown to tens of thousands of RNC visitors, protesters and media.

But the look and feel of downtown were much different. The usual hustle and bustle of the office crowd replaced with barricaded streets, miles of fencing, an assortment of state troopers, police on bikes and other security forces on nearly ever corner.

Despite a large sandwich sign that said, "Yes! We are open during RNC," the Florida Wellness & Rehab center was offering limited services.

"We have no scheduled patients, but we are offering acute and urgent care," Dr. Carol Browne said.

In the same Franklin Street plaza, Eddie's Custom Cleaners was closed.

Hawkers preparing to sell Romney buttons hung out near Bank of America Plaza outside the main entrance to the skyscraper, which was closed off. Tenants and tower visitors had to walk across the street and pass through security stationed at the garage elevators.

Some offices that opted to bring employees in were operating with skeleton crews. That was the case at the Walter P. Moore engineering firm, which was operating at half-staff in the Fifth Third Bank building.

Karen Roan, who was among the engineering firm employees on duty, said her bosses tried to avoid RNC traffic and late-afternoon protests by shifting their work day to between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at (727) 893-8242 or Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or

RNC slows, complicates business in downtown Tampa 08/28/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 3:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trigaux: How Moffitt Cancer's M2Gen startup won $75 million from Hearst


    TAMPA — A Moffitt Cancer Center spin-off that's building a massive genetic data base of individual patient cancer information just caught the attention of a deep-pocketed health care investor.

    Richard P. Malloch is the president of Hearst Business Media, which is announcing a $75 million investment in M2Gen, the for-profit cancer informatics unit spun off by Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center. Malloch's job is to find innovative investments for the Hearst family fortune. A substantial amount has been invested in health care, financial and the transportation and logistics industries.
  2. Three-hour police standoff ends, thanks to a cigarette


    TAMPA — A man threatening to harm himself was arrested by Tampa police on Tuesday after a three-hour standoff.

  3. Another Hollywood nursing home resident dies. It's the 9th in post-Irma tragedy.

    State Roundup

    The Broward County Medical Examiner's office is investigating another death of a resident of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills — the ninth blamed on the failure of a cooling system that became a stifling deathtrap three days after Irma hit.

    Carlos Canal, pictured at 47 years old, came to Miami from Cuba in 1960. Above is his citizenship photo. [Courtesy of Lily Schwartz]
  4. Despite Hurricane Irma, Hillsborough remains on pace to unlock hotel tax that could pay for Rays ballpark


    TAMPA — Despite the threat of a catastrophic storm, it was business as usual at many Hillsborough County hotels in the days before Hurricane Irma bore down on the Tampa Bay region.

    The Grand Hyatt near TIA closed during Hurricane Irma, but many other Hillsborough hotels were open and saw an influx.
  5. New Graham-Cassidy health care plan stumbles under opposition from governors


    WASHINGTON — The suddenly resurgent Republican effort to undo the Affordable Care Act was dealt a blow on Tuesday when a bipartisan group of governors came out against a proposal gaining steam in the Senate.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined by, from left, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters as he pushes a last-ditch effort to uproot former President Barack Obama's health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. To win, 50 of the 52 GOP senators must back it -- a margin they failed to reach when the chamber rejected the effort in July. [/J. Scott Applewhite | Associated Press]