Out & About: Know Your Papal Audience, Philadelphia

Filed under: Columns,Featured News,Latest News,Opinion |

by Denise Clay

One of the conversations that have been going on in the aftermath of the World Meeting of Families and the visit from Pope Francis is a conversation about how local businesses were impacted.
Restaurateur Stephen Starr told the Philadelphia Inquirer the impact on his restaurants was worse than that of Superstorm Sandy. Lots of hoteliers and other businesses accused Mayor Michael Nutter (and the somewhat-draconian security measures he allowed the Secret Service to impose) of beating their businesses about the head and neck.

POPE FRANCIS waves to crowd from Popemobile as he passes reviewing stand. At right are Mayor Michael Nutter and Lt. Gov. & wife Tonya Stack.

POPE FRANCIS waves to crowd from Popemobile as he passes reviewing stand. At right are Mayor Michael Nutter and Lt. Gov. & wife Tonya Stack.

In some cases, especially when it comes to the businesses in the Festival of Families zone (or Traffic Box) it made sense. When you’ve got to go through a series of magnetometers to get a slice at your favorite pizza shop, you’re going to go elsewhere.
But to be honest, some of the losses are due to (a) people not knowing the audience they’re playing to and (b) good old-fashioned self-inflicted wounds.
For starters, it’s no accident that the participants in the World Meeting of Families were called “pilgrims.” For these folks, this was the equivalent of a hajj to Mecca for Muslims. Many of them had probably been saving their pennies since the last World Meeting in 2012 to come here. Heck, I had friends who came to the meeting on St. Martin de Porres Foundation scholarships.
These folks had kids. Lots of kids. Not all of them stayed in hotels, opting to crash with church families, camp, or stay in New Jersey or Delaware.
These weren’t “white-tablecloth people.”
In other words, these weren’t folks that were going to spend $13 for guacamole because Grandma made some for the trip and it’s better than El Vez’s.
Local businesses heard 20,000 people coming to town and got happy. They didn’t think about who these 20,000 were.
But even for those of us who did want to do the white-tablecloth thing, it was hard because nothing was open.
A reporter friend of mine wanted to grab dinner Sunday night. We went to four different places … two were closed; one was in a hotel that wouldn’t allow us in because we weren’t staying there.
We would up at a bar in Northern Liberties, which was okay. But when you complain about business getting messed up due to an event, it might be a good idea to make sure there’ll be food.
Otherwise, folks will buy picnic baskets.

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