BizWorthy: It's Been A Rocky Reopening For Some Charlotte Businesses

Jun 4, 2020

Protesters have taken to the streets of Charlotte over the police killing of George Floyd now for six straight days. The demonstrations have largely remained peaceful during the day but have turned violent at night. In the chaos, several businesses uptown have suffered damage like busted doors and shattered windows. 

Many of them are restaurants just getting back on their feet after being closed for much of the past two months because of the coronavirus. Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter joins us to talk about this and other news in our segment Biz Worthy.

Marshall Terry: Tony, obviously a rocky start to reopening for some of those uptown places.

Tony Mecia: Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of businesses right now, Marshall, are really looking forward to kind of getting back into the swing of things after being out of commission for a couple of months. And yeah, I mean, you see some of these businesses uptown, glass shattered, but having to board up their windows. I think they probably think that's not really very helpful.

They'd like to get back in the business of opening up. Obviously, if you have you have these mass demonstrations, they need to take precautions. But I think it's one of these things that it's probably frustrating to business owners, but, you know, they probably don't say a whole lot about it, wanting to sort of, you know, express solidarity, I think, with a lot of the goals of the demonstrators.

Terry: Are you hearing reports of any damage to any businesses outside of uptown?

Mecia: I'm not. You know, this week, Marshall, there were protests outside of uptown. They seem to be mostly during the day and peaceful. I haven't heard of any reports of that. I mean, we did have SouthPark Mall was closed for a small amount of time earlier this week. There was a small demonstration there, but I haven't heard of any reports of anything outside of uptown.

Terry: Tony, this week in the Ledger, you tell the story of Tim Newman, who went from being a leading figure in uptown Charlotte, now being in jail on a charge of threatening to blow up a dam. So why was Tim Newman so important and what happened to him?

Mecia: Yeah, it was a really interesting piece we had in the Ledger this week. Tim Newman, from about 1999 to 2011, was a very influential, important uptown powerbroker, really. He was the president of Charlotte Center City Partners, the uptown development group. He was the CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which runs the city's sports and entertainment venues. He was responsible for helping land the NASCAR Hall of Fame, brought in a couple of big conventions to Charlotte.

He was basically forced out of his job in 2011 and now faces a series of charges — felony charges — in South Carolina related to threatening to blow up a dam, threatening the lives of a couple of sheriff's deputies. And he's got a string of other charges in North and South Carolina related to harassment, violating restraining orders, that sort of thing. So the piece in the Ledger sort of looks at for what happened and kind of looks at that downfall of someone who was really very well-known locally now facing potentially a lot of years in prison.

Terry: Well, what did happen? Can you just kind of give a quick thumbnail?

Mecia: Well, it's hard to know. It's hard to sort of speculate on sort of what the motivations are, and people can sort of draw their own conclusions. But I think, you know, in talking to Tim Newman and talking to some of his longtime associates, I think he still remains bitter about being forced out of his job in 2011 by then-Mayor Anthony Foxx and others who would question some of the financial dealings of the CRVA.

And then he had sort of a series of jobs. He had a couple, an arrest for drunk driving — charge was dismissed — and then sort of escalation, really, of domestic violence, restraining orders, charged with stalking. So really, the last few months, it seems to have accelerated, Marshall. Don't really want to speculate on causes. I will say that as part of a conviction that he had last fall, the court ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation and substance abuse evaluation as part of his probation, but he did not complete those.

Terry: Face masks have become a common part of daily attire because of the coronavirus, and some companies are announcing an additional function for all those masks — ad space. So, Tony, is that where we're heading? Walking billboards?

Mecia: I think, Marshall, it's becoming a little bit of the new swag instead of flash drives and pens and notebooks and those little bags... You know, I think you're really seeing some companies starting to move into that because this is some new apparel, essentially, that a lot of people are wearing, having to wear.

It's part of the safety precautions having to do with the coronavirus. So you're seeing companies start to get into this where they're putting their logos on these. You know, certainly, some sports teams are getting into it. But I think even the corporate world now is starting to look at that and say, "OK, look, this is a way we can advertise our brand. We can get our name out there." So it is a little bit like a billboard. You're seeing the same thing really go on, Marshall, not just on face masks but also hand sanitizer —  you know, a little parting gift from an event or something in the future could be a small bottle of hand sanitizer with your company's logo on it.

Terry: Finally, Tony, American Airlines says more people are booking flights again. Is the worst behind them, then?

Mecia: They're certainly hoping so. I mean, you recall Marshall a few weeks ago, they were flying planes that were virtually empty. There was a story in the Wall Street Journal that talked about all these flights where there was just one passenger, and so they were able to call them out by name over the intercom, you know, "Welcome aboard, Bill." That kind of thing. But, yeah, now, Americans said last week that the planes are flying about 50% full. And I think they're seeing that that uptick as people get a little bit more comfortable getting out of the house and even being on a plane.

Although, you know, the airlines have put in a bunch of precautions. You have to wear a mask. They don't serve the food. They're taking some precautions. I think they're very hopeful that things will bounce back, and if you look at the airline stocks, those have gone up recently, too, so I think investors are thinking that maybe the worst is passed If there is no new second wave.

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