CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Delegates for the Republican National Convention began arriving in Charlotte Thursday afternoon.
The Republican National Committee welcomed delegates from all 50 states and 6 territories at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Near baggage claim, a “Welcome Charlotte” sign was posted. Delegates were stopping for refreshments and snacks provided by North Carolina-based companies.
The Republican National Committee was serving Cheerwine, cookies and snacks from QC Catering Company and Uptown Catering.
Steven Stepanek, Chairman of the Republican Party in New Hampshire, landed in Charlotte Thursday afternoon. He served as a delegate in the 2016 Republican National Convention.
“I’m just here to support the president. We don’t know what to expect, everything is upside down this year,” Stepanek said. “I don’t know how much flexibility we have because of all of the quarantine so to speak. I’ve done a COVID test, daily temperature checks, and filling out surveys everyday to make sure we are all health and we stay healthy. So, I don’t know how much flexibility we are going to have to venture outside of the hotel, strictly from a health and safety plan.”
“I think the in-person part is really important. You know, watching some of the DNC stuff it just looked really sad that there weren’t any people there. I think having at least 336 of us together is better than zero,” Delegation Chairman for Arizona Michael Ward said.
The Republican National Committee provided delegates with nearly 40 restaurant suggestions in Charlotte.
“With the help and guidance of federal, state and local officials, as well as medical experts, we have enacted a series of protocols that prioritize the health and safety of all attendees and the local community. We compiled a list of restaurants and outdoor activities delegates and attendees could look to enjoy in order to experience the uniqueness of the Queen City. There were almost 40 restaurants in total shared, including the restaurant website, phone number and location. Each attendee will be complying with state and local directives for health and safety,” a spokesperson for the convention said in a statement to WBTV.
Business owners in Uptown are hoping for a boost in sales after months of slow business due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been a real struggle, like no offices being here. Lunch time we relied on businesses seeing us through. And dinner we relied heavily on conventions, hotels, people traveling into town and that’s nonexistent as well right now so it’s been a real tough time,” Owner of Brazz Carvery and Steakhouse Mital Naik said.”
Owner of Brazz Carvery and Steakhouse Mital Naik in Uptown Charlotte is hoping the Convention will bring in business, but he’s concerned about the visibility of his restaurant due to RNC Security.
“We’re really close to the Convention Center where there will be you know 400-some people there, but to access our restaurant they need to almost circle the block and enter on Tryon Street which is not convenient but we hope they’ll goo out of their way to give us some business,” Naik said.
Delegates who arrive early say they may explore some of the city.
“We really didn’t look too far in advance to find out what’s available and open. We made some plans to go out to eat and go to a couple of the recommended places from the RNC. The Billy Graham museum, we already put our name in a hat to be able to go there,” Ward said.
Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said in a press conference on Friday, the health department has been working with restaurants and venues for about a year and a half on what they need to do to protect visitors and their staff.
“They’ve educated them, reminded them about the limitations on how many people they can have int heir venues, about the need to continuously wear masks and also about cleanliness. So that has been an ongoing process for about a year and a half now. And we followed up especially since the perimeter has changed a little bit to make sure the venues know what’s expected of them and what they need to do to protect themselves as well as the individuals who might be coming in,” Harris said.
Harris says spread of the virus in Mecklenburg County is low. The county says there have been lower daily averages, lower hospitalizations and a 7 percent positivity rate over the last 14 days.
The republican National Committee is expected to release an After-Action report detailing any cases that were discovered at the convention. Harris says the RNC will also be checking on out-of-state visitors 5, 14, and 21 days after they leave Charlotte.