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Could businesses be compensated for lost profits during NATO/G-8 summits?

Updated: March 25, 2012 8:15AM

Businesses that suffer losses during the upcoming NATO and G-8 summits because they’re located within the “inner-most” security perimeter could be in line for financial compensation.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was asked Thursday whether businesses located within the inner-most security perimeter will have a process to recover lost profits incurred during the May 19-21 events at McCormick Place.

“The [NATO and G-8] Host Committee is working on it. They’ll have a process for that,” he answered.

Emanuel did not explain which businesses might be eligible, what the compensation would be or what strings would be attached.

Pressed on whether compensation would be open to businesses that feel they need to close to protect their property or employees from protesters in the days leading up to the summits, the mayor would only say, “We’re gonna address this issue.”

His answers to the questions, once reported online Thursday, set off a flurry of denials. A spokeswoman issued a statement saying: “We have no plans to reimburse businesses – the city is open for business.”

When Jennifer Martinez, a spokeswoman for the NATO and G-8 Host Committee, was asked about compensation, she said: “The plan is for all businesses to be open. We do not anticipate businesses being closed. We will not reimburse businesses that decide to close on their own.”

The potential for claims is staggering.

Already, DePaul University has decided to close its Loop campus on the day before and the day after the summits and deny access to classrooms, labs, the cafeteria and offices in the Loop campus over a four-day period.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago has said it has “extensive contingency plans” that would allow its employees to “work from home” or from an “off-site location” in the event that demonstrations turn ugly during the summits.

The bank is located at 230 S. LaSalle in the heart of Chicago’s financial district.

And the Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this week that the civil courtrooms at the Daley Center — an integral part of the nation’s second-largest court system — could be closed down for security reasons in the days surrounding the unprecedented gathering of world leaders.

One of the first protest permits issued by the city sets the stage for a massive May 19 march from Daley Center plaza to McCormick Place, where President Barack Obama and other world leaders will meet.

Emanuel serves as chairman of the Public Building Commission, which runs the Daley Center and would ultimately decide whether to close the building or its civil courtrooms.

“People are talking about stuff. Nobody has decided anything….You don’t know if that’s gonna happen yet….People, as you said, are talking about it and looking at it. [But] there’s no conclusion yet to that case,” the mayor said.

Earlier this month, United Airlines employees worried about how they will get to Willis Tower during the summits questioned Emanuel during a roundtable about the potentially $65 million event expected to turn the world spotlight on Chicago.

The mayor played down the inconvenience by describing the summits as a “weekend” event, conveniently ignoring the fact that protesters and world leaders are likely to arrive days before the meetings begin.

Don’t the closings and potential for business compensation poke holes in the mayor’s “weekend” event argument?

“It begins on May 19th. It’s over on May 21st. If there’s a day on either side, there’s some of that. But, the bulk of it is over the weekend,” the mayor said.

“Rather than a whole week in the city where we have other types of events usually during the week that have an impact, this is on the weekend. It allows the city to continue during the week, which is most important and on the weekend, which is least disruptive. And it’s a very big opportunity for the city to sell itself to the world and for the world to see what we all know here in Chicago to be … the greatest city in America and [enjoy] the huge economic opportunity and job creation that comes from that.”

A large security perimeter is expected to prevent motorists from driving and parking on downtown streets during the McCormick Place summits, but specific boundaries dictated by the U.S. Secret Service will not be released until as few as two weeks before the event.

Some businesses see the summits as an opportunity, including Macy’s and Sears. Spokesmen for both stores said Thursday they plan to keep regular hours at their downtown stores.

Macy’s hopes to see more international shoppers during the summit, and is touting its “Spirit of Brasil” fashion showcase starting May 16 to attract tourists.

Neither Sears nor Macy’s would disclose their security arrangements.

Said Sears spokesman Chris Bathwaite, “We are prepared to take steps as the situation dictates to protect our store and our associates.”

Contributing: Sandra Guy

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