Millions in pledged mitigation money isn't consoling some East Boston
small business owners, who still worry about the impact of a $1 billion Suffolk Downs resort casino on their livelihoods and community.
"That's not going to help me in any way for sure," said John Mastrangelo Sr., owner of Kelley Square Pub. "I'm worried about people not coming to my restaurant. I think people would rather go up to Suffolk Downs and gamble and eat, and just bypass us."
And Mastrangelo doesn't see casino vendor opportunities for his "small fry" restaurant of 25 years.
Under the host community agreement signed by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Suffolk Downs/Caesars Entertainment, the casino developers committed to spending $5 million annually on goods and services from East Boston businesses. They'll also pay $33.4 million up front to fund East Boston projects including a new East Boston Neighborhood Business Program.
"A figure is a figure," said restaurateur Anna DiCenso of Rino's Place and the Prima e Dopo cafe. "As far as this business program -- what are they going to offer to us? Are they going to design our building over? They can't guarantee us small business owners that our business isn't going to drop, and they can't guarantee it's going to rise."
Balloon City of Boston president Christine Bernstein worries about "all the promises."
"It all sounds well and good," said Bernstein, who creates custom balloon designs for events and has operated in East Boston for 30 years. "But do you have to have a certain amount of tenure in East Boston or can a big company move in and say, 'We're from East Boston,' and capture some of that business?"
East Boston Chamber of Commerce president Diane Modica hopes the new neighborhood business program will include recommendations from the group's "Prosperity Agenda," a study released in October on how East Boston businesses could capture casino benefits.
"We included a rebranding campaign for East Boston, infrastructure improvements, upgrades throughout the commercial business districts and capacity building -- helping minority business, incubator programs ... storefront renovations, and ultimately a follow-up study (on) the impact on local businesses," she said.
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