SHEFFIELD traders have slammed claims that the Lib Dem Spring Conference would boost the city economy and said customers were staying away as protesters began to arrive.
Shopkeepers in Barker’s Pool - where around 5,000 demonstrators gathered Saturday lunch time - say trade appears to be way down.
Deputy PM Nick Clegg defended the decision to stage the event in the city, saying it would bring a £2.5 million boost to the local economy.
But businesses said they could not see where that money would come from as residents stayed clear of the city centre.
Matt Bigland, co-owner of The Milestone and The Milestone at the Wig & Pen restaurants, said several bookings had been cancelled for the weekend: “We have been dead. People are staying away, worried there is going to be trouble.
“We are down massively on our usual Friday night turnout and people have been calling up to say they are cancelling their bookings. The police said there are between 5,000 and 10,000 protesters coming and that is worrying for people.”
Some traders had been preparing for a boost as around 3,000 delegates arrived in the city, but they said the extra business had not appeared.
Colin Gregory, co-owner of Feast sandwich shop on Chapel Walk, said only the hotels would benefit from the conference: “We had a really busy dinner time, and there were lots of different faces coming in. But in the afternoon it was completely dead.
“A lot of our regulars are staying away from town over the weekend. Nick Clegg said it was going to bring in millions of extra business. We think the hotels will have taken lots of extra custom, but everyone else is staying away.”
Simon Scott, store manager of Leslie Cass Jewellers on Surrey Street, added: “It has been much quieter than it usual was on a Friday. We were expecting thousands coming into the city but it hasn’t really happened.
“Local people are staying away. Delegates will be in the seminars and talks - they are unlikely to be out shopping.
“The only people who have benefited are the hotels where people are staying and the City Hall which is hosting the event. And the people who would normally come in on a Saturday will be staying out of town.”