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National Guardsmen patrol Baltimore, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Baltimore was a city on edge Tuesday as hundreds of National Guardsmen patrolled the streets against unrest for the first time since 1968, hoping to prevent another outbreak of rioting. (Amy Davis/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

As cancellations mount, the economic ripples spread

More upcoming events at the Baltimore Convention Center were canceled or rescheduled following Monday’s riots, and nearby restaurants and hotels are already feeling the squeeze.

Tom Noonan at the B-more Ad campaign launch on April 2, 2015.

Tom Noonan at the B-more Ad campaign launch on April 2, 2015.

Organizers of It’s Time 2015, a women’s leadership summit that was scheduled for Friday through Sunday, announced late Tuesday evening that the event would not go forward.

“The current situation in Baltimore, resulting from the tragic death of Freddie Gray, remains volatile,” Betsy Hall McKinney, CEO of the It’s Time Network, said in a statement. “Given that there are planned protests over the weekend that are in close proximity to the Convention Center and our guest hotels, we really have no choice but to cancel the summit at this time.”

Guests at the event were to have included former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, actress Rosario Dawson and journalist Soledad O’Brien.

A cybersecurity conference sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association that was to be held May 5 through May 7 has also been postponed but will be rescheduled. Organizers said in a statement they were considering dates in June and July.

But in the meantime, businesses around the convention center are taking a hit.

“We’re down between $40,000 to $60,000 in canceled events from Monday of this week through Thursday of next week,” said Donald Kelly, co-owner of the Pratt Street Ale House, which sits across from the convention center and does a lot of business with convention groups.

Kelly said the restaurant would have to cut back hours for its 82 employees, leaving some of them concerned about paying their rent in the next few months.

The Baltimore Marriott Waterfront has had at least 10 different events canceled through next Tuesday, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, said Julie Codus, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.

The hotel has seen projected occupancies of over 90 percent for the next few days drop to below 50 percent after Monday’s riots, Codus said.

Organizers of some galas and conventions have either canceled or relocated, but one upcoming wedding party was determined to proceed no matter what, Codus said.

Will Sterling, owner of Saturday Morning Café on Water Street, said Wednesday that business was down about 30 percent over a normal day, and that he’d had to close Tuesday due to safety concerns and because his employees had trouble getting to work.

“It’s going to be a soft black eye on tourism,” Sterling said, adding that visitors would be concerned about safety in the city.

Earlier this week, two conferences scheduled to begin Wednesday were canceled.

CoNEXTions, an industry convention sponsored by the Door and Hardware Institute, was scheduled for Wednesday through Friday at the Baltimore Convention Center and would have had an economic impact estimated at $1.18 million, according to Visit Baltimore, which works to attract conventions and tourism to the city.

The American Heart Association also canceled a three-day conference that was to take place Wednesday through Friday at the Hilton Baltimore. The national conference was expected to draw between 300 and 350 people, according to an association spokeswoman.

Visit Baltimore is working with its members and partners to develop a short-term strategy for the next few weeks, said CEO Tom Noonan.

“We’re working on what our message is going to be going forward,” Noonan said, adding that the long-term message was still that Baltimore is a great city with great tourism and convention assets. “We’ll get back to that,” he said.

Hotels in the city have reported losing in-house business for the weekend, such as weddings and social group events, Noonan said.

Noonan said Wednesday that had heard from two conventions in the past 24 hours from planners looking to bring their events to Baltimore City in the next few years.

Kelly said he wanted to hear a long-term plan for protecting tourism and convention business in the city over the next couple of years.

“I don’t know how long this is going to affect us. Nobody has a crystal ball,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s going to be a week or two. I think it’s going to be longer than that.”