The streets around Camden Yards are normally full of fans before an Orioles game, but on Wednesday, there was just a handful of fans along with a police presence. ( Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Several downtown Baltimore business owners say that the true menace created by Baltimore’s unrest is financial.
Liquor stores, bars, restaurants and entertainment venues surrounding Camden Yards were feeling the economic burden of a spectator-less baseball game on Wednesday that would ordinarily have drawn tens of thousands of people. This on top of a curfew that will make the streets barren by early evening.
While city and law enforcement leaders proclaim normalcy and calm are returning to Baltimore, some business owners are looking at their end-of-the-month numbers and seeing nothing but red ink.
“It all comes just as baseball season starts. This is an absolute disaster,” said Pete Rush, managing partner of the Goddess Gentlemen’s Club on Eutaw Street. “We were expecting this would’ve been a record-breaking April.”
The Orioles, which won the American League East title last year, was expected to draw large crowds to start the season. Monday and Tuesday’s games were postponed, while Wednesday’s game was played to an empty stadium, as no tickets were sold. A weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays was moved from Camden Yards to Florida.
Many of the business owners near the ballpark did not want to talk openly about the curfew or protesters, since they feared criticizing city leaders or inviting retribution from demonstrators.
One business said they had been heavily criticized for boarding up their windows and doors earlier this week. The trickle of customers that had come into local bars and restaurants paled in comparison to the dozens of patrons they typically see during a regular season Orioles game.
The suffering is being felt not just among the business owners, but also workers, many of whom depend on tips.
Typically, Rush said, on a Wednesday afternoon there is a line around the corner of his business full of eager patrons. At 4 p.m. — happy hour — there was no one. His dancers, who have rent and bills to pay, are complaining about the lack of customers.
One liquor store owner said he has seen a 20 to 30 percent drop in sales since the 10 p.m. curfew was issued. Most of his customers come in after 11 p.m., after getting off work.
Employers said they did not understand why the city chose to issue a curfew first and then bring in the National Guard.
“The National Guard should be protecting the businesses while they stay open,” said Omega Fisher, a self-employed resident who overheard a reporter’s conversation with Rush, the strip club manager.
“The people of Baltimore are pissed,” the 55-year-old added. “It’s embarrassing. Grown people don’t need curfews.”
Rush said he hopes Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) reconsiders the curfew before Friday — a crucial day for many businesses the area. The city, he said, is also losing out on sales tax revenue.
Outside Camden Yards, die-hard fans pressed themselves against the outer fence to catch a glimpse of their favorite players. Every batted ball and glove smack reverberated crisply through the empty cavern of a stadium.
Some gave interviews to national and local media outlets, including one woman who only gave her first name, Amanda. She questioned why current events had stopped baseball, when the sport has had an enduring legacy of perseverance through wars and other events in American history.
“I’m pissed off we don’t have baseball,” she said bluntly.