Businesses worry about inheriting downtown panhandlers

On Aug. 22, Mayor Shirley Franklin signed an ordinance making it illegal to beg for money in much of downtown. Now business owners in surrounding areas are worried that downtown’s homeless problem will become their problem instead.

Several business owners say they’ve already taken steps to combat potential problems with panhandlers, who could migrate north, east, south and west as a result of the push to end to panhandling downtown.

Tim Rayburn, general manager of the Krispy Kreme on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Midtown, says his problems with the homeless have forced him to hire security guards on weekend nights. Jo Hartsoe, general manager of Thumbs Up Diner on Edgewood Avenue in Old Fourth Ward, says homeless people harass her customers while asking for change.

“Right now it’s only two or three people,” Hartsoe says. “It might affect our business if we had a dozen or more homeless people circling around. I’m not sure what I would do if that were the case. Probably call the police.”

Other Midtown business owners aren’t too concerned. Tasso Costarides, who is part-owner of the Majestic Diner, located on Ponce across from the Open Door Community homeless shelter, says panhandlers haven’t had any real impact on his business.

“The smoking ban hasn’t affected our business,” Costarides says. “This won’t, either.”

Downtown business owners, as well as members of the convention and tourism industries, pressed for the ban, saying panhandling was tarnishing the city’s image as a tourist destination. The mayor’s office says the police department will begin enforcing the ordinance within 30 days.

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