Small business owners disappointed 2020 DNC is being scaled back, need to change plans

MILWAUKEE -- With the 2020 Democratic National Convention scaling down and leaving Fiserv Forum, many small businesses in southeast Wisconsin are feeling left out.

Last year, it was estimated $200 million would be spent by visitors during the run of the 2020 DNC. That would have provided a serious boost to locally-owned businesses. But now, that money and special contracts are drying up.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

On Wednesday, June 24, Democrats announced the convention would be scaled down due to the threat of COVID-19. Much of the convention will now take place virtually -- with state delegations staying at home.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he hoped the convention would have boosted small businesses -- especially those owned by people of color.

The owner of Rise and Grind told FOX6 News she applied for catering and facility rental contracts for the CND. She also applied to extend her cafe hours -- and for a liquor license at one of her two locations. While Baboonie Tatum says she has not been hit too hard by the pandemic, she was looking forward to a boost from the convention.

Rise and Grind, Milwaukee

Baboonie Tatum

"We won't be able to promote our business on the grand scale we thought we could," Tatum said. "We were going to offer live jazz with everything we were doing. We are disappointed we probably won't get those contracts."

Rise and Grind was also part of a registry of local businesses that was going to be made available to delegates when they were going to visit the city.

Because the 2020 DNC will be virtual, leaders fear the rest of the country will not get to see what Milwaukee has to offer in-person.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley

"Everybody was excited to see the DNC coming here. But we just have to move forward and look towards the future on how we build back better after this pandemic is behind us," said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley.

Tatum is trying to stay positive.

"We're still here and we're still trying to hang on. We appreciate everyone's support," Tatum said.

Rise and Grind, Milwaukee

Nick Johnson of the Greater Milwaukee Hotel & Lodging Association issued the following statement:

"Speaking as leaders in the Milwaukee hospitality community, the scaled back Democratic National Convention is disappointing on an economic level, and we are excited to still be able to showcase our city on a national scale. This is an important step towards putting Milwaukee on the map as a destination for major conferences and events.

"On a hotel level, I’ve witnessed the determination of our industry firsthand through my work with First Hospitality. Safety is always our first priority, and the Milwaukee hospitality community has worked hard to ensure every visitor is welcomed with the utmost care. I’m confident that our community can handle events of any size responsibly."