Downtown Tempe business owners say the lack of information about security for the presidential debate Oct. 13 at Arizona State University has them worried.
Many are concerned that unforeseen road closures or other measures imposed by the U.S. Secret Service could keep customers away.
"I want to know what's going to happen," said Michael Monti, co-owner of Monti's La Casa Vieja, "I want to know what to tell my customers."
The Secret Service has refused to release any details regarding the travel routs or the schedules of the candidates, Tempe police Sgt. Dan Masters said. Security plans call for several street closures south of University Drive near the ASU campus. But the Secret Service could expand the number of closures without notice.
"Basically we are at the whim of the Secret Service and what they decide," Masters said. Police plan to close Mill Avenue between 13th and 10th streets and Apache Boulevard between College and Mill avenues on the day of the event. Police also will close Forest Avenue and Gammage Parkway.
In the past, federal security agents have sealed off the downtown with little or no warning to protect high profile visitors, longtime business owners say. Vic Linoff, owner of Those Were the Days, said the federal agency killed his business when they closed every road leading downtown in 1987 when the pope visited Tempe.
"It was a ghost town down here," said Linoff, who has been part of the downtown business community for more than three decades. He said he understands the need for tight security surrounding the debate, but added that the Secret Service needs to do a better job of communicating with the public.
"The big uncertainty for business is not knowing until literally the last minute what is going the happen," he said. Rod Keeling, executive director of the Downtown Tempe Community, said the debate will boost local business by drawing political junkies and curious onlookers to the area.
"I think it's going to be a big party," he said, "I think people will come down here after the debate and argue about who won over a beer or two." Keeling stressed that any last-minute road closures would be temporary and encouraged people to travel downtown and take part in the downtown atmosphere. He added that people will be able to enter the area from any direction.
Stan Nicpon, owner of Uno's Pizzeria, said tight security could disrupt food and beverage orders as distributors looking to keep their delivery trucks out of the area on the day of the event. For more information about the debate, visit www.asu.edu/debate.