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Chapel Hill's business community says Silent Sam protests are hurting profits

silent sam protest

Linda’s Bar and Grill is a well-known staple of Franklin Street. It is located by the Chapel Hill Courthouse, Morehead Planetarium and, until recently, Silent Sam. 

But all of the activity happening across the street has detracted from an otherwise popular college town bar. 

Last night we had 12 percent less business,” said Chris Carini, the owner of Linda’s Bar and Grill. “On the previous demonstration, the 25th, compared to the 18th (of August), we had 26 percent less. Just to give some perspective, that’s terrible. No business should be losing that much of a percentage.”

Carini also spoke to the financial impact on his employees. 

“The worst part is that my staff doesn’t get tips, that they don’t get the money that they need to sustain themselves when these things happen," Carini said. "The parking situation becomes much worse. The people can’t get to the doors to walk in them. And then there are just a few people who come to the town because many people wish to avoid the situation entirely.”

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership sent a letter Thursday to UNC Chancellor Carol Folt urging her not to return the Silent Sam statue to its previous location in McCorkle Place.

The letter was also sent to Harry Smith Jr., chairperson of the UNC-system Board of Governors, Gov. Roy Cooper, N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger and N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore. 

“We felt then, and even more so today, that this prominently-placed statue threatens our community’s safety, is bad for business and undermines our well-earned reputation that successfully attracts business, talent and investment in our community,” the letter said. “We believe the points we raise through this letter, coupled with the statement from our Mayor about concerns for public safety, meets the exception clause of the 2015 state law and provides sufficient grounds for the lawful and lasting relocation of Silent Sam.” 

Elinor Landess, interim executive director for Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, spoke to the financial losses local businesses experience in conjunction with events surrounding the statue. 

“It is in the interest of our business community that we prioritize public safety and recognize that with tensions as high as they are, we need to be cognizant of the potential safety consequences should the statue be replaced,” Landess said. “It's also important to note the impact these demonstrations have had on our local downtown businesses."

She said Franklin Street businesses have lost an estimated $189,000 in retail sales and $10,000 in wages for each Silent Sam demonstration.

Kate Loovis, vice president of external affairs at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, said the business community should have a role in the conversation about Silent Sam. 

“The Chamber and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership represent an important perspective that should be considered in Chancellor Folt’s plan, and we thank her for her consideration," Loovis said.

Loovis emphasized the next steps the business community believes are the most beneficial. 

“Bottom line: Our letter should provide Chancellor Folt and the Trustees with sufficient grounds to not reinstall the statue, but rather relocate the statue to a more appropriate place where both the Civil War and the Jim Crow Era of its installation can be appropriately remembered," Loovis said.


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