Coronavirus cancellations disrupt businesses hoping spring business would offset winter doldrums

Posted at 6:50 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 18:50:54-04

CLEVELAND — Downtown businesses are getting ready for less foot traffic and fewer customers as more downtown events start to cancel events because of the coronavirus.

The Mid-American Conference (MAC) Men's Basketball Tournament is limiting the number of spectators during it's games at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse from March 12 - 14 to essential team personal and close family.

Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Wednesday, Cleveland's St. Patrick's Day Parade announced it won't go on as planned on March 17th a few hours before the Cleveland International Film Festival announced it was also canceling its March 25 - April 5 event.

An Ohio High School Athletic Association playoff basketball game between Shaker Heights High School and McKinley High School also limited spectators to teams and a few family members.

As steps like those continue, it means a lot fewer people in individual arenas, but also fewer people milling around downtown before, during, and after those events.

"This was the turning point to get ready for the summer, get ready for our patio season," said Zocalo Manager Jeff Hronek.

Hronek says he understands why events are cutting back on spectators but it still couldn't come at a worse time for downtown restaurants.

"You got the [MAC] basketball tournament followed by the [St. Patrick's Day] parade followed by [Major League Baseball] Opening Day," said Hronek. "That's a three-week hit right there that really helps. A lot of people were depending on it."

"This will be a significant, short-term hit for the community in terms of dollars and cents," said Destination Cleveland and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission CEO David Gilbert.

Gilbert says the hit will be large but hopefully won't last too long.

The silver lining is that tourism around the world is slowing down, meaning that Cleveland likely won't take a hit that's larger than many other cities.

"It's not going to stop us from making sure that in 2021, 22, and 23, we have even more things coming," said Gilbert.

Until then, "this is the service industry," said Hronek. "Everything you do, you have to prepare for the worst and expect the best."

In the meantime, Cleveland Monsters games are expected to happen without restrictions.

Destination Cleveland tells News 5 so far they have only had two events postpone and one cancel.

The NCAA announced that the men's basketball tournament, one round of which will be hosted in Cleveland, will be played without spectators.