Running a business can be tricky. Normally, you’ve got income and expenses, and there’s a balance between how much income you generate with what kind of expenses so you can make a profit. Usually, the most important piece of that puzzle depends on customers. When something causes customers to turn away, walk away or to otherwise be deterred, that spells trouble.
When something like the Hard Rock building disaster happens, businesses are naturally thrown off balance. There’s likely a dip in foot traffic at some downtown businesses, something that cannot be helped as the city closed off several blocks to deal with the collapse aftermath rescue, recovery and demolition. There’s still a lot of work to do. Mayor LaToya Cantrell was blunt and straightforward about the central cleanup task ahead: “To be clear,” she told reporters, “I don’t want anything salvaged on this site. We want a complete demolition.”
That means there might not be huge explosions demolishing large construction cranes, but there will be important demolition work, and that means the 1000 block of Canal Street likely will be off-limits for some time. Out of necessity, city officials closed off several blocks and streets as the demolition of the Hard Rock’s upper floors and the removal of the cranes was planned. According to the Downtown Development District, some businesses closer to the river have seen less foot traffic since the Oct. 12 collapse. Fewer pedestrians mean fewer walk-ins means fewer potential customers, and therefore fewer purchases. In an area where so much business is tied to tourism, we encourage the district to be patient and we encourage the city to move deliberately with safety at the core while understanding that these businesses need as much foot traffic as possible.
The holiday season will be upon us soon. Some of the Canal Street businesses certainly rely heavily on November and December sales for success, quite possibly for annual profits. That might be challenging without foot traffic. Opening downtown blocks and streets to pedestrian and vehicular traffic would help.
We don’t want city officials to open now-closed blocks and streets so quickly that they risk public safety. We want a balance struck so we can maintain the businesses we have, make room for businesses that want to call downtown home and prepare for a downtown that won’t include the once-promising Hard Rock Hotel.
We don’t know what Canal Street will be like without that project. We do know that existing businesses deserve our consideration. Businesses are run by people, family, friends and neighbors. We can visit to say hello, to show tourists they’re welcome and maybe leave a few dollars.