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Economy & Business

The long and short of protests’ economic impact in St. Louis

Bits of glass covers a sidewalk in downtown St. Louis after people broke windows on Sunday. (Sept. 17, 2017_
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio
Bits of glass covers a sidewalk in downtown St. Louis after people broke windows on Sunday.

The numbers aren’t in yet, but recent protests over the Jason Stockley verdict are clearly hitting the St. Louis region financially.

Two major concerts, U2 at the Dome at America’s Center and Ed Sheeran at Scottrade Center, were canceled on Saturday and Sunday. That meant a combined 100,000 concertgoers who were not in downtown St. Louis.

“Many of those, especially for the U2 concert, were coming from across the Midwest, so we had hotel rooms and restaurants that missed out on business both the night the concert was supposed to be and the next day,” said Missy Kelley, CEO and president of Downtown STL Inc.

Kelley said the city missed a chance to market itself to those out-of-towners for future trips. More than that, she said news of broken windows and closed streets will make it harder to get business conferences and conventions to book here.

“It certainly makes people more reluctant to come to the region because they’re concerned about safety … that definitely impacts our brand,” she said.

Joe Reagan, president and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber, agreed that lost working hours and business opportunities, plus increased costs to local governments will mean a short-term economic effect. The specific impact remains to be seen.

“It’s very early, too early to assess in numbers,” Reagan said.

As for long-term impacts, the head of the business organization said St. Louis needs to seize the moment to address racial disparities.

“We believe the true measure of economic impact will be how we take action to implement economic policies that bring about racial equity and restore trust in the justice system here and be a model for communities across the country that are dealing with the very same issues," Reagan said.

While the Forward Through Ferguson Report, released two years ago Friday, had helped foster some progress, Reagan said obviously more work is needed.

Hundreds of people have been participating in protests — some peaceful and others destructive — since Friday, after Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson found former St. Louis Patrolman Jason Stockley, who is white, not guilty of first-degree murder after an August bench trial in the 2011 shooting of drug suspect Anthony Lamar Smith, who was black.

In the Loop District, developer Joe Edwards said Monday night that he was puzzled over why some people chose to break out windows in 23 businesses along Delmar Boulevard on Saturday night.

“Why this street, in particular, I’ll never know in a million years,” he said, pointing to the large number of minority- and women-owned businesses.

At the same time, Edwards said people were very supportive on Sunday, coming out to shop and eat, along with artists who painted over plywood.

“If nothing else we have a lot of great new art on display in the Delmar Loop,” Edwards said.

In downtown St. Louis, Kelley said windows were broken in seven or eight businesses on Sunday.

“The best thing that St. Louis can do right now can show up for these small business owners who really are taking the brunt of something that they have no power over,” she said. “We need to go out to lunch; we need to go out for dinner and you know, just pop in and show our support.”

So far other events in St. Louis appear likely to go on as scheduled.

A St. Louis Blues official said a pre-season game at Scottrade Center on Wednesday evening was still planned.

Meanwhile, Billy Joel will play at Busch Stadium on Thursday.

“Our security team has been in frequent communication with law enforcement to ensure we take every step necessary to assure the safety of concertgoers,” said Ron Waterman, the Cardinals’ vice president of communications. 

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

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