City of St. Petersburg proposes their own RNC 'event zone'

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - When Melissa Stanton teaches yoga, she treats her students like family. Everyone is welcome, all the time. That is, except for one Sunday in about a month.

"We're just saying the studio is closed," Stanton explained.

Yoga Energy, located on Central Avenue near Tropicana Field, sits in the heart of a proposed Event Zone scheduled for the Republican National Convention.  A kick-off party and parade may draw as many as 50,000 people to downtown St. Petersburg on August 26.

"A lot of people are concerned that they're not going to be able to conduct their business," said Edge Business District Association President Lea Ann Barles.

The proposed Event Zone will cover several miles of businesses and homes between 5th Avenue North and 7th Avenue South, and from 22nd Street to Tampa Bay. It will interrupt traffic and parking. It also restricts what people can carry around, including weapons like knives or mace, and less obvious objects like lightbulbs or containers filled with bodily fluid.

"Will I be able to get into my apartment? Will I be able to get out of my apartment? Is it just going to be sheer chaos?" said Cindy Matthews.

Matthews lives across the street from Tropicana Field. She and other residents met with Secret Service agents a few days ago. They were told to keep a driver's license with them at all times.

"At first I thought maybe I'd want to go away and get out of town for that night, for that event," Matthews said. "Now I think I want to be out and about and I think I'll stay right here in the neighborhood."

That's exactly what Yoga Energy hopes others do, too. Even though they will close down for a day, they hope to open back up to new crowds for years to come.

"Walking by, traffic is always great," Stanton said. "People can peek in the window and see this is a warm, inviting studio."

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