Militarized Center City doesn’t spur business

The military took Rittenhouse Square First

The military took Rittenhouse Square First (Courtesy J. Val)

One big misconception about the Papal Visit and World Families Week was that it would be like Made in America festival or Live 8, a bunch of celebrants descending upon a city with disposable income to see their favorite artist or to be part of a pop culture spectacle. That’s not this. This was people with kids, grand parents and friends who believe the Pope is their heavenly ordained religious leader.

That means Churches organized a lot of this. One thing that Churches do is host modestly and that means people get fed and sent off with some water and/or food if the parishioners can help it and make sure there are places for people to rest if they need it. Catholic parishes staged and hosted volunteers and visitors. To start their days they would walk towards the papal militarized zone (PMZ) (the “box” constantly surrounded by metal fences, National Guardsmen, TSA, Secret Service, Police and other law enforcement agents for 4 days). They streamed past pop-up street vendors with bootleg Pope memorabilia and water bottles. The hottest items were official items from Sunday’s mass and official passes to get into the PMZ.

Restaurateurs like Stephen Starr were extremely upset with the negative revenue impact of the weekend, but the family of five coming to see Pope Francis probably didn’t put his upscale eateries on their list of things to do. People weren’t streaming out of the house drunk to head to the parkway, they are heading out of churches, guest houses and friends extra bedrooms and given some water and snacks to take with them and a time for dinner or late evening meal.

Most of us non-catholic foodies, fantasy football owners, drinkers, revelers and par-tiers stayed on our sides of the PMZ which meant rooftop parties, watching the game at local bars, catching up on fall cleaning, or even you know. Rittenhouse Square was dead by Wednesday.

Once Aramark got involved and began monopolizing supply for the event there was even less opportunity for the fine restaurants occupied by federal, state and local law enforcement. The best move was just to take the loss this weekend and close their doors and take it up with their city council representative or congress person.