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Annapolis businesses adjust to impact of Obama's visit

Some restaurants opening late, expect fewer customers

By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

6:23 PM EST, February 6, 2013

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Businesses in Annapolis near where President Barack Obama met with Senate Democrats on Wednesday said road closures for security were affecting them, with some shutting their doors.

"I had to shut down until 2. Nobody can get in," said Riccardo Santoro, owner of Varuna Aveda Salon Spa in the Park Place complex, adjacent to the meeting.

He said the closing, due to the expected traffic woes, was his decision — and he expected to lose about $1,200 in revenue.

City streets closed right around Westgate Circle, where the Westin Annapolis hotel is located. The president was attending the Senate Democratic Issues Conference there, and the streets around the circle were scheduled to be blocked between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Police were detouring motorists around the blocks; still, traffic closer to downtown was lighter than usual.

Carpaccio, a restaurant in the same complex, was expected to open for a late lunch, around 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Gaby Haddad, general manager, said he was expecting to serve fewer diners, because some of the local businesses he relies on were probably allowing some staffers to work elsewhere.

But for other restaurants, Obama's visit was seen as a boost.

"We've actually had a bit of an influx of business this morning from all of the people that have been working," said Stephanie Wiedenfeld, manager of Miss Shirley's Cafe along West Street in the Park Place complex.

Across West Street, several patients canceled morning appointments at Oral Surgery Specialists, according to the office manager, Deanna Deyo. "One of our doctors now has three hours open," she said.

However, a few patients took up the practice's offer to see patients as early as 7:30 a.m., a half-hour ahead of the usual opening, she said. They would have been gone by the time of the road closures.

The Community Action Agency posted an "emergency closing" notice on its door, saying it would reopen Thursday. The notice did not say why it was shut.

At Reuben's Restaurant only one person sat at a table at midmorning.

"It's terrible," said the owner, Jim Kwou. But, he said, "It's temporary. It was very busy before the road closed."

Nearby, the BP gas station had barely a car pull in. But foot traffic to its 7-Eleven convenience store was good, said manager Ali Yousa, who operates both.

"I would say we'll have a pretty significant drop-off, unless the president wants to stop by," said Bernie O'Brien, general manager of Fado, a restaurant-pub in the Park Place complex.

"If he wants a fish and chips, he can have a fish and chips, on the house, absolutely," he said.

Richard Crabtree, the branch manager of the Merrill Lynch office, said some of his staff was working remotely Wednesday, and he made some scheduling changes to accommodate traffic crunch that did not materialize.

"I think it's great for Annapolis," Crabtree said. "It hasn't been nearly as bad as people were predicting, and the police did a great job of managing it."

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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