Mayor: Business as usual during summits

February 24, 2012 3:31:01 PM PST
Chicago businesses that are impacted by the upcoming NATO and G8 summits will not be reimbursed for any losses.

Earlier this week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had appeared open to the idea of compensating businesses that had to close. But on Friday, he said Chicago will remain open for business during the three-day summit at McCormick Place this May.

Businesses near the summit are not being required to close, but some owners might close out of fear that protesters could cause damage or that their customers would just stay away.

The mayor would not call it an about face, but what he said Friday differs and is far more definitive than what he said about the issue Thursday. Businesses will not be asked to close -- not even those that ring the summit site. And, should a business choose to close, it will not be reimbursed. Nor would the business be reimbursed if it stays open but profits drop.

"For businesses like us, we probably need to know yesterday," Janet Conner, business owner, said. Conner and her husband, Robert, own Marmon Grand - a banquet hall on South Michigan. They host wedding receptions, graduations, and political fundraisers.

May is a busy month for the Marmon Grand, but since they're located one block west of McCormick Place, the Conners and other merchants close to McCormick wonder about the security perimeter, and how that will affect their business.

"At some point, I need to inform my clients so that if we have to make adjustments, we can let them know, so we need to know right away," Conner said.

The Secret Service says there are no plans to close any businesses. However, those within the inner most security perimeter wonder how practical it will be to stay open if their customers choose to stay away. And if they lose business as a consequence, is there a mechanism for them to recoup their losses?

On Thursday, Mayor Emanuel seemed to imply that there could be an avenue for recovering lost profits, saying, "The host committee is working on that. They have a process for that."

But by Friday, he had a different answer.

"No, there will not be any reimbursements. There's no need to. If they choose, it's not because the Secret Service told them to do it, because there's no need to do that," Mayor Emanuel said.

So, businesses will not be told to close-- no matter their location. The Secret Service will work with each owner to assure that its business as usual, according to the city.

"We feel very confident in their ability and our ability to work with them to insure it is business as usual and that businesses will stay open and are going to experience the long-term benefits of this," Lori Healey, executive director of the Chicago NATO/G8 Host Committee, said.

In the absence of an announced or even loosely defined security perimeter, the questions in the neighborhoods around the summit site are growing exponentially.

For businesses to get out to customers, we're going to relocate, we're going to work by phone, or we're going to be closed, we definitely need time, and the time would be now," Bonnie Sanchez Carlson, Near South Planning Board, said.