Send the Grand Prix packing

O' say can you see? The answer these past couple weeks in downtown Baltimore would be a definite, no! ("Race to remove Grand Prix barriers," Sept. 3)

The weeks of hassle for Baltimore commuters while setting up for the race, not too mention the weeks after the race for removing the concrete barricades/chain link fencing/blue "block out" tarps would be bad enough, but it was Labor Day weekend!

Where do I begin?

Enough is enough. This race is an abysmal failure, and the businesses, residents and tourists that are in Baltimore need for it to cease and desist. The was the third year in a row that our city has been held hostage, and this third time was definitely not a charm for Charm City.

The city did a horrendous job "encouraging" people to understand that neighborhoods such as Fells Point, Canton and Little Italy are open for business. With some effort and a GPS even Federal Hill was accessible. But when you see enormous highway "warning" signs about traffic issues in Baltimore City, guess what? People tend to heed the warning and not come.

This is the third year that I personally walked through the city and asked businesses how they were doing, and the consensus was, "awful." Business is off 50-to-90 percent in most cases.

Harborplace was dead because once inside the Grand Prix maze, getting out was next to impossible. I spoke to employees at one outlet, a national clothing chain, and they were offering free beer just to entice customers in. Even that didn't work.

I spoke to tourists weeks leading up to the race as well as during it and asked what they thought about it. All said they saw the barricades and fencing and just assumed that Baltimore City "really was a dangerous place just like in 'The Wire.'"

Labor Day used to be one of the best 3-day weekends for business because parents who had already dropped their kids off at college tend to return the first couple weeks to make sure their kids are settling in and made a weekend of it. People came from all over and enjoyed Baltimore. This race has destroyed this weekend!

Baltimore has a gorgeous harbor. The powers-that-be should concentrate on boat races, regattas, sailing and tall ships. The Sailabration was a huge success, and it made Baltimore shine. Every person loved that event. Every neighborhood in the city was beaming with pride.

Businesses thrived, residents didn't feel as though they had to flee. People were not held hostage in their own homes and neighborhoods while hearing an incessant high-pitched squeal of tires and helicopters hovering overhead for days.

Please, I love this city, truly I do, but enough is enough. The Grand Prix has got to go. Businesses such as mine and countless others can't afford to lose one day, let alone three, four or five days of business or else they will be gone. Please, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, listen to your constituents and end this misery.

Beth Hawks, Baltimore

The writer is owner of the Zelda Zen boutique in Fells Point.

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