City businesses fear G-20 effects, Oakland could prosper

By Simone Cheatham

With the G-20 Summit in just two weeks, some Oakland restaurant owners said they are hoping for… With the G-20 Summit in just two weeks, some Oakland restaurant owners said they are hoping for a boom in business.

But Downtown, where tight security restrictions will be in place and protesters are expected to show up en masse, entrepreneurs said they fear they’ll lose money and more.

Business at Pamela’s Diner has been great since President Barack Obama expressed a fondness for its pancakes in April, according to Tim, one of the store’s owners. He declined to give his last name because he said he doesn’t feel comfortable in the public eye.

Tim said he expects things to be no different when the G-20, a group of leaders representing 19 countries and the EU, comes to Pittsburgh Sept. 24 and 25 to discuss the world economy.

“I’ve already talked to some people Downtown who are getting bookings [for hotels]. I’m sure Oakland is getting some bookings, too,” he said. “We keep hearing horror stories about this thing on the news. We’re just hoping that it goes without a hitch.”

Marc Matus, an assistant manager at Pizza Sola on Atwood Street, said he thinks business could be great during the G-20, but that will all depend on whether Pitt cancels classes, he said.

“We’re not even sure if we’re going to stay open at this point,” Matus said. “If school is canceled, we’ll probably be closed, too. Sales will be either more or less. It just depends on how many people are around.”

But business owners Downtown seem to be more flustered by the Summit, which is expected to attract more than 3,500 journalists alone, in addition to the diplomats, their spouses and thousands of protesters.

One Downtown business owner, who asked to remain anonymous because he feared being targeted by city officials and protesters, said he believes the Summit will have “nothing but negative” effects on Downtown businesses.

“Oh, it’ll benefit the politicians and most of the people in big federal jobs,” he said. “But the benefits for the city are at a minimum.”

He said his store bought special G-20 merchandise to sell during the Summit, but he plans on taking a major loss in sales, because there are rumors that violent protests will occur that week, and security restrictions will prohibit unauthorized people from driving within three blocks of the David Lawrence Convention Center, which will host the Summit.

“I don’t know how much it’ll cost us, but business is terrible already with this economy,” he said. “This is going to be a major blow to us. There’s no plus side to this. September has been a pretty good month for us in the past, but most of that week we’ll lose. Business will be terrible, and there will be some violence. If you know anyone who’s willing to bet on this, I’ll seriously put some money down on it.”

The owner said if the city permits it, he hopes to stay open for extended hours to try to earn more revenue. The store normally operates from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Local business organizations, including the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and PPG Management, have posted basic guidelines for businesses to follow during the Summit.

Some of the guidelines include allowing employees to work remotely, informing customers of restrictions being placed on the business ahead of time and making deliveries early to avoid delays. The partnership’s website instructs employers to “have staff information, including W-2s and I-9s readily available” for employee identification.

The site acknowledges that the Summit will create challenges for Downtown businesses and says, “It is understandable that anxiety is building about how Downtown will continue to operate [during the G-20.]”

Kim Coppola, owner of Serendipity, a small accessories store Downtown, has begun to accept that the G-20 could disturb business.

“We, like most people, are trying to do business as usual, but it’s going to be difficult,” she said. “We’re just hoping everything works out for everyone.”

Coppola said she hadn’t heard what specific precautions her business and others would have to take, but her superiors have hinted broadly at changes in the company’s daily security and business routine. She said she didn’t know the specifics.

“Everyone’s taking precaution, especially against protesters and everything,” Coppola said. “You have to be cautious.”