Convention hurts Beantown's downtown

The Democratic National Convention wraps up Friday and, for many local businesses, that won't be soon enough. What was promised as an event that would pump millions into the economy has instead turned out to be a big disappointment.

At Francesca's Italian Restaurant in Boston, this week was supposed to be big! But instead, most of the tables sit empty, the wine is still corked, and extra staff have been sent home. Business is down 80 percent.

"We expected a big, big business with the convention and it's been really, really slow," says assistant chef Fernando Pereira.

It's a common complaint — customers have been scared away. From the empty sidewalks along trendy Newbury Street, to the north end — which is normally choked with traffic — Boston is quiet.

Even the trolley companies, normally filled with summertime tourists, say business is down 50 percent. One business owner said it's like a New England blizzard without the snow.

Where is everyone? 

Mostly in the Fleet Center from mid-afternoon until late at night. The hotels are making money — they're full. But with so many parties and free food, few people are shopping or eating out.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Two years ago, business cheered the news the Democratic National Convention was coming to Boston amid predictions it could pump $154 million dollars into the economy.

Instead, with 40 miles of roadway closed, trains shut down and so much extra security — it's now expected to cost the economy more than $8 million!

"Not only did they manage to keep the people from the DNC away from our businesses, but they have managed to keep the people from Boston — our local people — away from Boston," says restaurant owner George Mendoza.

Thursday, Mayor Thomas Menino was offering free parking and concerts this weekend, hoping to lure shoppers back downtown.

"I sympathize with them, I understand their frustration but four days should not affect the business of a business plan,” says Mayor Menino.

In New York, organizers of next month's Republican National Convention hope to avoid similar problems, despite similar security — like a lock-down around Madison Square Garden.

"There's a big difference between Boston and New York. New York doesn't close for anybody, not even the president of the United States," says Kevin Sheeky, President of the New York City Convention Host Committee.

But, back in Boston, where the waiters are struggling to stay awake, the talk is of lifting a glass — once the DNC and its security leave town.