By Rory O’Sullivan
Small shops along downtown Riverside’s Main Street have begun tightening their belts a little more and searching for ways to increase revenue while the 18-month long renovation and expansion of the Riverside Convention Center is still underway. The project that began last July has taken a financial toll on the restaurants, novelty stores, beauty shops and consignment stores that many who rely on downtown pedestrian traffic to keep them in the black.
Robert Bratton, owner of Gram's Mission Barbeque Palace, located directly across from the convention center said during its remodeling and closing he has lost about $300 to $400 dollars every single day.
The slow down in business has him looking for private investments to stay in business. “That’s what got me so scared to death,” said Bratton.
“It’s one thing after another,” said Wendie Monrroy owner of Wendie Monrroy on Main. The store sells many things from fragrances, to dishes, to furniture, as well as handmade items by local artists.
Like Bratton she has experienced similar financial losses.
Last year, even MetroRiverside LLC, the developer of the Hyatt Palace filed a claim against the City of Riverside and its redevelopment agency alleging that the closing and renovation of the convention center has impacted the hotel’s prime source of business.
Debbi Guthrie, Sr. Vice President of Raincross Hospitality Corporation, which is contracted to manage the convention center is sympathetic to businesses on Main Street, but the payoff will be worth it.
“There is a buzz everywhere about the fresh new venue,” said Guthrie. “We are receiving a record number of inquiries and meeting planners and organizations across the country and internationally.”
She said the convention center will be able to hold at minimum of 1,500 additional people. There are technological upgrades that will allow them to attract more corporate and association clients.
The Riverside Convention Bureau has been “active” resulting in her securing the filming of the ABC television show “Splash” bringing $330,000 in revenue to Riverside City College and helping fill hotels and restaurants in Riverside during this production time.
Janice Penner of Riverside Downtown Partnership said, “most of the lost business is being offset by projects like “Splash.” “The Riverside Convention and Visitors Bureau has been continually marketing Riverside as a site for conferences and conventions,” said Penner.
Bratton and Monrroy are feeling the pain now but expect it to be better once the remodeling is complete.
“I expect it to be better once it’s done,” said Bratton before adding, “I need help now.”
Monrroy’s husband Arthur said Wendie needs additional help now as well.
“There’s no way, shape, or form they'll support us,” said Arthur.