Businesses around race track gear up for crowds or close - WFLA News Channel 8

Businesses around race track gear up for crowds or close

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Race drivers begin practice runs Friday morning at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. It's taken weeks of set up to get to this point and some downtown St. Petersburg businesses say they're paying the price.

"I think they could do some things to make it a little easier for these businesses that are right on the course," said Richard Kantner, a lawyer.

Kantner's law office is just feet away from a concrete wall separating the track from the public. He thinks the event is great for the city, but forces him to close his office to clients each year for several days. He said they have no choice because of detours, a lack of parking, and a temporary fence set up less than two feet from his door.

"Let's wait until Friday when you absolutely have to have that cushion," explained Kantner. "This has been up for three days now and so we're squeezing through here trying to come and go from the office."

Next door at Courigan's Irish Pub, owner Sam Martin closed up shop for three days this week to rest from the bar's St. Patrick's Day celebration and to gear up for the race.

"The set up, it takes some business away, but you got to give and take," said Martin. "It's going to bring a thousand more people over the weekend, then it would take away from us during the week."

Race officials said, in recent years, they have reduced the days of road blocks and business detours before and after the race. With an estimated 100,000 fans expected, the event's president said he hopes nearby businesses will benefit.

"Obviously our job is to entertain the fans at the track Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 8 to 6 and hopefully businesses can take advantage of these fans coming in especially in the after hours," said Tim Ramsberger.

The Dali museum is inside the race area and only accessible to race ticket holders for the next three days. To try to get race fans through the door, a museum spokeswoman says they're offering half-price admission through Sunday.

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