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Losing RNC could be lethal blow for Charlotte businesses impacted by COVID-19

Many businesses were relying on the RNC to make up some of the lost revenue from COVID-19.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The RNC was set to bring a major boost to the economy, something many businesses in the Queen City have been looking forward to.

The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority has said the economic impact could match the $163 million the DNC generated back in 2012, all of that now hanging in the balance.

Compounded with the coronavirus pandemic, this is a one-two punch for some businesses. Many were relying on the RNC to make up some of the lost revenue from COVID-19.

“It was really going to be a huge event for us,” said James Weymann, the owner of Silverfox Limos. His company brought in three months' worth of business in the four days the DNC was hosted in Charlotte in 2012.

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It’s money he desperately needs right now.

“Especially after COVID-19, we were really hoping this was going to bring us back, put money back in the account, and get us back to normal,” he said.

The pandemic is the reason those 50,000 people may not be in town using hotel rooms, shopping in stores and eating at restaurants.

“It’s a huge disappointment. Thanks, Governor Cooper," said Weymann.

Chef Rocco Whalen, the owner of Fahrenheit, sees it differently. ”The fact of the matter is this, we're coming out of a worldwide pandemic where we're only allowed to provide half capacity for our customers right now,” he said. “For Governor Cooper to commit to something in August, to be at full capacity, I’m not sure he could do that right now."

Whalen experienced the DNC 2012 and the RNC in Cleveland, where he owns a second location. He knows the convention, regardless of the party, is a homerun for business and is hopeful it could still move forward safely.

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“It would be unfortunate if we were to lose out on those financial opportunities but if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last four months, is that’s not what it’s all about. Taking care of people, being kind, doing good business, being hospitable, showing off the city,” he said.

Vince Chelena, the Executive Director of the Charlotte Area Hotel Association, tells WCNC Charlotte he is “heartbroken.” He said the industry has been hit hardest by the virus and 140,000 hospitality workers were looking forward to this opportunity to bounce back.

The Charlotte Host 2020 committee released the following statement:

“We were disappointed to learn of plans to move the Republican National Convention from Charlotte and that RNC officials are actively visiting other cities for the relocation of the convention. 

Our team has worked diligently and in good faith for over two years and this decision will unfortunately impact small businesses, the hospitality sector and other industries and dedicated workers counting on the positive benefit of convention activities and events. We had hoped this convention would be an opportunity to showcase our region’s vibrancy to an international audience. We are working with our partners to better understand the implications of recent events and any potential path forward.”

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