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City Controller Weighs In On Papal Visit Economic Impact

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia's city controller has done a limited survey of Center City businesses on how things went over the weekend of the Pope's visit.

Just 41 businesses were included in the survey so it is not, by any means, a full economic impact report, but it does confirm what other inquiries have found.

"Restaurants were destroyed over the weekend. We also found that retail stores were hurt about as bad as the restaurants," said City Controller Alan Butkovitz.

Butkovitz says activity at the 19 restaurants he surveyed was less than half a typical weekend and for the 15 retail stores, about a fifth of a typical weekend. He says the only businesses that did okay were the 6 hotels.


"The warning signs on the hotels went up early and they employed all sorts of substitute strategies. They started targeting Center City workers instead of tourists and that's one reason it's good."

Butkovitz says that incomplete and often contradictory information from city officials made it hard for businesses to decide whether to close or stay open.

"And the mayor engaged in that I'll be there campaign and restaurants were encouraged to stock up as if this was going to be a huge sales opportunity," said Butkovitz.

Butkovitz blames mixed messages from the city for some of the losses, an assertion the Nutter administration refutes arguing the decision to open or close was an individual one. Butkovitz, though, says the "I'll Be There" campaign encouraged businesses to open, often citing the Convention and Visitor's Bureau estimate the event would contribute some $400 million to the local economy. The bureau has not revised the figure and still considers the event a success.

In an email, the mayor's spokesman says Mayor Nutter was "hopeful about a positive impact" but repeats that was not the purpose of the event. He says the mayor continues to hope the event will lead to more tourism.

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