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Posted on Nov 15, 2011

Small Businesses to Occupy Wall Street: Thanks for the Memories

Zuccoti Park NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to evict overnight protestors from Zuccotti Park may mark the beginning of the end for Occupy Wall Street. But if the protest relocations taking place are any indication, it appears that the Occupy movement stands to die a slow, painful death. Meanwhile, the small businesses near protest sites have felt an impact that may outlive the movement itself.

At OWS and its offspring demonstrations nationwide, most notably the Occupy Oakland protest, some of the most distressing effects on surrounding businesses include:

Costs: Stacey Tzortzatos, who owns a Panini & Co. store near Zuccotti Park, told reporters she “had to put a $200 lock on my bathroom because [protestors] come in here and try to bathe. The sink fell down to the ground, cracked open, pulled the plumbing out of the wall and caused a flood. It's a no-win situation.” From maintenance to security, overhead costs have soared for business owners near Occupy Wall Street.

Loitering: While camping out at public parks, protestors have turned to local businesses for electricity and running water. According to a restaurant owner near the OWS site, "They want to use the toilet, the phones, we give them free water and free ice. They sit here and don't buy anything, but they recharge their phone batteries with our plugs, and I tell them, 'Hey, if you guys are going to come, I need to do some business here. We are suffering, too!' And then they start…going against you." For retailers and restaurateurs, OWS has replaced paying customers with freeloading protestors – and some businesses don’t know how much longer they can hold on.

Damages: Last year, an influx of minority-owned shops and galleries helped revive downtown Oakland and freshen the city’s image. But as the Occupy Oakland protests escalated, enterprisers saw their buildings vandalized, their wares stolen and their dreams dashed. For Alanna Rayford, whose Afrocentric art once drew admirers to her cathedral building space, the looting of the site she does business in has given her pause. When windows were broken and artwork was stolen on November 2, “It was really disheartening,” she said. Although initially supportive of the Occupy movement, Rayford soon found herself explaining to protestors the impact that property destruction has had on her business.

Occupy Wall Street may be a movement against big business – but its lasting impact on surrounding small businesses has been far more potent.

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