City controller's report shows Philadelphia businesses took hit on papal weekend

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Hundreds of thousands packed the Ben Franklin Parkway this weekend to see Pope Francis, but despite all those crowds, area businesses say they took a hit.

Hundreds of thousands packed the Ben Franklin Parkway this weekend to see Pope Francis, but despite all those crowds, area businesses say they took a hit.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz's snapshot of papal weekend revenue shows economic activity was not great for retailers and restaurants, but hotels fared better.

Butkovitz says, "This whole thing was sold as if it was going to be a tremendous boost to the local economy."

But he says a preliminary poll of about two dozen restaurants and retailers saw little boom.

On 13th Street in Center City, where every retailer and restaurant stayed open, Zio's Pizza made less than half on a normal weekend.

Butkovitz says the surveys he is reading from local businesses are grim.

"I've seen several comments from restaurant owners, one of them said they're moving out of the city because of this and the other one said they have to close up," Butkovitz said.

But not everyone is complaining.

Duross and Langel Soap Makers owner Steve Duross was prepared for anything.

"It was great. Friday was great. Saturday was great. Sunday was a little bit slower for us, that's the day where our regular customers come in and stock up," Duross said.

Many regular customers skipped town.

Restaurants lost money on extra inventory and staff due to expecting larger crowds.



But Davio's on 16th Street had two large parties of pilgrims and walk-ins every night of the weekend especially after the papal Mass.

"We fared all right, better than we thought. A little bit less [than a normal weekend,] but better than we thought," a Davio's representative said.

It's the hotels that did the best thanks to the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association's reaction to low projections early on.

"About a month ago, the hotels were in panic. As a result, there was a big reduction in rates, they changed their marketing strategy, and they offered lodging for people working in Center City locations. They ended up having a great week and a great weekend," Butkovitz said.

The Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association is still waiting on final numbers.

The city controller released these preliminary numbers:

Hundreds of thousands packed the Ben Franklin Parkway this weekend to see Pope Francis, but despite all those crowds, area businesses say they took a hit.



Retailers saw weekend business drop 79 percent.

Restaurants were off by 55 percent.

Hotels were down 12 percent.

Butkovitz is waiting on the rest of the surveys to come in from a total of 250 businesses. The survey can be found here.

He plans to use this information to help plan the Democratic National Convention with the next mayor.

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