COVID-19 causes ripple effect on Hartford’s Front Street District

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — With more than 30 states on the travel restriction list, no conventions to speak of and the state’s Phase 3 reopening on hold, businesses in downtown Hartford, specifically the Front Street District, is hurting.

There is a lot of discussion surrounding how to save the Capital City from economic upheaval.

When the Hartford Convention Center was turned into a makeshift field hospital the federal government paid for it. What wasn’t covered? The loss of revenue. Events like ConnectiCon were canceled.

The loss from that one event: 10,000 guests and full hotels and restaurants.

Mike Freimuth, Executive Director of the Capital Region Development Authority, said that one event is a “major pay day.”

Between the Convention Center and the XL Center, 160 workers have been furloughed. In the next month, they could be laid off.

Add the two anchor hotels — the Mariott physically attached to the state-owned convention center and the Hilton attached to the XL Center. Both notified the department of labor in “warn letters” they were laying off more than 300 workers.

“Their lively hood is dependent on large public facilities they sit on public land when you shut those down you undermine the hotels,” added Freimuth.

Both face potential shutdowns. In their letters, the companies blame Governor Ned Lamont’s executive orders restricting out of state travel and a pause on the Phase 3 reopening, saying it’s having a devastating impact.

Matt Ritter, the Democratic House Majority Leader and State Representative for Hartford, said, “It’s not just revenue loss to the state, it’s business that could close, unemployment to follow and all the good progress over 10 years gone in one fell swoop.”

State lawmakers are working on a COVID economic relief package for the September special session, but Governor Lamont is reluctant.

“I’m not as enthusiastic about using taxpayer money to help private business, but we will look at it broadly and see what we can do to get that side of the city going again,” said Lamont.

The city’s focus to revive itself now involves free chamber of commerce memberships for city businesses.

“We are still bullish on the future of the city of Hartford,” said Julio Concepcion, Executive Director of the Hartford Chamber of Commerce. “One of the best things we do is work together.”

City leadership is said to be worried.

“We are seeing events being canceled in the fall already,” said Freimuth. “We don’t know the schedule for the NCAA or hockey programs in the XL Center. A lot of unknowns still hanging out there.”

Congress is looking at a Main Street program in the second stimulus package but some said it’s a long shot because it doesn’t cover hospitality and tourism.

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