Loyal customers are what keep a local business alive, and Steve Casner recognizes that. So when the Democratic National Convention rolled into Charlotte, N.C. this week and his business, Alexander Michael’s Restaurant & Tavern, had the opportunity to lease out, he opted not to take the bait.
“We are a destination place, and I wanted to be available,” Casner said. “But I just feel like we should be loyal to the people who have kept us in business for the past 23 years. That is the route I’d rather take.”
The decision may have cost him some profit, but Casner doesn’t mind. Many of his lunch-break regulars are working from home this week, he said, and others are just avoiding the traffic the convention has brought into town. The restaurant employs 20, he said.
“We have been less busy than normal,” he said. “But I am glad Charlotte was picked for [the convention]. I’m not resentful about losing business; it’s just a part of doing business.”
However, not all locals are losing business. Todd Hutcheson said his bed and breakfast, Victorian Villa, is typically reserved for weddings, but thanks to the DNC, it is booked solid all week.
The Villa has been open for 10 years, and is about 15 minutes out of downtown Charlotte, Hutcheson said. He has 12 full-time workers.
“We do weddings every week, so our facilities are pristine,” he said. “I am not a Democrat, but I am glad the convention brought in some tax dollars for the city.”
Craig Spitzer, general manager of the Dunhill Hotel and Harvest Moon Grille, said both businesses have seen a major bump from the convention. The hotel was part of the initial DNC bid for the city, so Spitzer said the business was booked well in advance. However, it was unclear how the restaurant would fare.
“The city has been really alive, and the restaurant has been able to capture a ton of folks from out of town,” he said. “Because of the convention, people are doing business over meals, so from the moment we start at 6:30 a.m. until the kitchen closes, we are turning tables constantly. The overflow of people have also been meeting and greeting in our hotel lobby.”
Between the Dunhill and Harvest Moon there are 80 employees. Harvest Moon’s chef is a local farmer, and Spitzer said the restaurant is the only one of its kind in the area.
Tia Bazelle, kitchen manager for Mert’s Heart & Soul, a restaurant located around the block from the convention, said the business has been booked for private parties all week. Target has the restaurant booked every day of the convention, Bazelle said, but Mert’s is open to the public at night.
“We were prepared for massive crowds, but we weren’t out-of-this-world busy,” she said. “We were busy enough to say it was worth it to stay open.”
Regardless of party affiliation, Spitzer said Charlotte’s duty as host city has benefited the entire community.
“We have excellent infrastructure, civic pride, and the ability to get things done in the community,” he said. “Everyone has recognized that no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, it's a great opportunity. People have rallied together to put on a great show.”