Presidential Debate at Belmont impacts businesses and neighbors

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Students, business owners, and neighbors in the Belmont University area have been impacted by the Presidential Debate.

The signs are up, and preparations are underway for the event on Thursday evening. Cameron Fish said, “I mean it is crazy. Just looking around and seeing my campus be completely transformed into like the safest place in the United States, and just having this monumental historical event happening, it’s really cool honestly.”

On their way to Bongo Java, Belmont student Cameron Fish and her friend, Savannah Kelley, were taking it all in, “It is a little bit harder to get around, just driving wise, that’s why I get her to drive everywhere,” Kelley said.

A couple streets and parking areas are already blocked off for setup. “Even this morning 15th was closed, I was trying to get somewhere and I was like oh it’s starting early? I’m a little nervous but I know it won’t last forever, so I’m just going to try to navigate it the best I can,” Fish said.

Not everyone is happy about the debate being on campus. The owner of Proper Bagel took to Instagram to voice her concerns about being forced to shut down this week. She said with roads closed, delivery trucks won’t be able to access the restaurant.

“I felt sad for them so we wanted to support them.” Samantha and Caroline Roncalli saw the post and decided to get bagels to-go. “I think they deserve all the business while they still can.”

A spokesperson for Belmont University said the businesses can still be open to foot traffic, and they worked diligently to encourage debate workers to utilize them. The event is expected to pump money into the local economy as media crews and debate workers fly in from across the country. The statement said:

“Belmont University was selected as a host site for a 2020 Presidential Debate last October and has worked closely throughout the past year with federal and local officials to prepare for a safe and secure event. While any event of this size brings challenges and inconveniences, we have worked diligently to ensure nearby businesses could not only remain operational but benefit from the Oct. 22 Presidential Debate. Those efforts include:

  • Sharing information about the security perimeter five weeks ago when it was established
  • Partnering with MNPD to ensure businesses knew they could remain open all week
  • Providing information on restaurant access for take outs, deliveries, pickups and more throughout the week, including the 30-hour period when a required closure of Belmont Blvd to vehicles (but not pedestrian traffic) is in effect
  • Actively promoting neighborhood businesses to all media and debate guests
  • Making connections to visiting media to enable catering agreements”

Places like Chago’s Cantina decided to rent out their restaurant for the entire week according to the owner. Bongo Java is also staying open, and a manager said they had to get special parking permits for café workers.

Drivers, business owners, and students are doing their best to adjust to the hustle and bustle. Fish said, “It’s kind of crazy like the degree to which they’re making it so safe, and just putting all of the lights and the posters up, but it’s a really cool experience, and I’m really glad that I’m here.”

Here’s a list of road closures:

Road Closures due to Presidential Debate
List of road closures due to Presidential Debate in Nashville, Tennessee.

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