Businesses in Murfreesboro feel brunt of 'White Lives Matter' protest
Businesses in the historic square of downtown Murfreesboro fled the area in advance of Saturday's anticipated 'White People Matter' rally. Many business owners I spoke with expressed disappointment both for the community at large and the loss of a substantial portion of their revenue.
Autumn Friese, the general manager at Puckett’s Wine & Spirits, said that her organization stands to lose 40% of its weekly sales due to the protest. And yet, despite that loss, Puckett's plans to stand up for the community the following day. “We’ve partnered with Murfreesboro Loves and wanted to support the community," she said, "so on Sunday we’re donating 10% of sales to Main Street in addition with hopes of attracting the community back to the square.”
Autumn appeared personally concerned at the display Saturday and its potentially devastating consequence for this community, that people will make assumptions about Murfreesboro in general due to the extensive media coverage brought on by the hate groups' protest.
Ryan Isenberg, a barber at Shave Barber Lounge off of N. Church, said, “Saturday is one of our busiest days, and I expect a 25% loss.” Isenberg is just one of several who depend on a steady Saturday customer flow.
For many establishments, financial losses are compounded by the expense of boarding up storefront facades given the potential or violence at the protest. Isenberg, much like Autumn Friese at Puckett's, sees Saturday's protest as a unique situation, one that will kick some dust up now but likely not ever return. "Let them bang their drums, and go back to their caves," he said.
Liquid Smoke, a bar on N. Public Square, is well known for inviting a diverse group of patrons, a trendy, relaxing stop for the masses. Owner Kelly LaMure put it best regarding her overall point of view by saying, “I was devastated to see the setting up of barriers and boarding up of businesses. It simply makes me sick! Especially with the safe environment that we encompass within my business where everyone is welcome without judgment to simply enjoy their off time.”
LaMure expects losses to total 20% for the week, plus waitstaff loss of income. “Our family income is right in the middle of ground zero with my location and my husband’s shop next door, Humidor. This being our family livelihood, it’s a tremendous fear, the impact for us.”
Eric Walker, a senior bartender at Liquid Smoke, said, “Saturday being my best shift, I’m due to lose $350.00.”
Eric LaMure, manager and Kelly's son, is a strong proponent on the first amendment rights at play here. “It’s a double edge sword," he said, "because no one wants to hear what they’re going to say, but the other side wants to also gather to snuff them out…”
Naturally, all the business owners I spoke to strongly encouraged their patrons to stay clear, and perhaps stay safe at home. Some chose to close early on Friday afternoon, early evening, and certainly all day Saturday.
“We can replace the tangible, but not the integrity of our city and the safety of our citizens," said Kelly LaMure.