I-Team: Checking the economic impact of the Republican National Convention

30 local businesses weigh in

TAMPA - When the Republican National Convention came to town, organizers promised Tampa Bay would get an economic boost of $175 million. Did the event live up to expectations?

The RNC Host Committee today said they believe the event was a huge success for the region. The whole reason Tampa hosted the convention was to bring in money and promote the area.

I-Team investigator Michael George spoke to more than 30 local businesses to ask them if the convention was worth it, and more than half said it failed to live up to the hype.

Precinct Pizza is located Channelside, literally one block away from the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Owner Rick Drury expected big business and even hired extra workers.

"This was hyped up to be bigger than the Super Bowl," Drury said.

But seven weeks after the convention, he says it was a huge disappointment.

"We have still not recovered. It's been horrible," Drury said.

Drury says the massive amount of security and fear of traffic issues scared off locals as well as out-of-town visitors. With the roads closed, he couldn't deliver pizza, which led to a 60% loss of business. He says he had to throw out hundreds of dollars worth of food. The extra workers he hired were laid off immediately after the RNC week.

The I-Team surveyed 30 restaurants, bars, and cab companies near the convention area.  Sixteen of them said they actually lost business during the convention compared to a typical week.  Nine of them said they saw their business increase, and five said they saw no change.

RNC Host Committee chair Ken Jones answered questions about the success of the RNC at a news conference Thursday.

"Yes, there were some businesses that absolutely did not do as well as they hoped. On the flip side, you'll find as many if not more businesses that will tell you it was a boon week for them. The transportation industry, the hotel industry, the catering industry, the hospitality industry.
Splitsville is located in Channelside, very close to Precinct Pizza. Owner Guy Revelle says Splitsville did great business during the convention.

"I think in all, we had 28 to 30 parties," Revelle said.

Splitsville, and many of the businesses who reported a positive impact from the convention, had pre-planned events with convention-goers. The businesses that lost money did not. 

"No one did well with this, except for the few people who had pre-planned parties," Drury said.

RNC organizers believe overall, Tampa Bay did receive an economic boost that will be in the ballpark of $175 million. A financial study on the economic impact is expected to be completed in about four months.

Thursday, the RNC Host Committee released it's financial report to the FEC, which includes the list of donors who provided the $55 million dollars needed to fund the convention.

The list includes Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, as well as major corporations like AT&T, Coca-Cola, and the oil industry. 

The businesses that reported a decrease in business were Precinct Pizza, Bruegger's, Fly Bar, The Bricks, Laughing Cat, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Hamburger Mary's, Elmer's Sports Cafe, The Rack, Stacked, Pour House, The Bungalow, World of Beer, The Pub, Spain Restaurant, and The Dubliner.

The businesses that reported an increase in business were Splitsville, Cafe Dufrain, Hattricks, Taco Bus, Taps, Bernini, Cab Plus, VIP Valet & Limousine, and United Cab.

The businesses that reported no change were Jackson's Bistro, Brick House, Tampa Airport Cab, The Kennedy, and Donatello.

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