Zombicon Letdown: Zombies disappoint downtown Fort Myers businesses

8:54 AM, Oct 24, 2012   |    comments
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Fort Myers, Florida (News-Press) -- Zombicon brought thousands to downtown Fort Myers on Saturday, but some business owners said the night's profits fell short of last year's event.

People in zombie makeup, "Star Wars" costumes and everything in between flocked to Fort Myers over the weekend. The event started with a zombie convention at the Harborside Event Center, followed by a nighttime party on the streets of downtown.

The annual event is one of the busiest nights for downtown bars and restaurants, but some said business was down from last year.

Business at the Morgan House in Patio de Leon was down about 20 percent over last year's event, bar and entertainment manager Steve Blasucci said. He blames an increase of food carts set up on the streets by nondowntown businesses. It was disappointing to see them take business away from local bars and restaurants, Blasucci said.

"We don't want them to come to food vendors that aren't located here," he said. "We want them to come to the restaurants and bars that are here."

Still, Saturday was the Morgan House's busiest night so far this year. Business was up about a third over a typical Saturday, and nothing was broken or damaged, Blasucci said.

The Hideaway Sports Bar on Dean Street also saw about 20 percent less business than last Zombicon. Owner Brian Dodson said one reason could be competition from newly opened Ford's Garage across the street.

Downtown House of Pizza on Hendry Street had a line out the door just like last year, owner Jason Kohn said.

"To tell you the truth, we didn't notice any change on our end," Kohn said. "It was so busy we couldn't leave our little area."

But sales a few doors down at Kohn's new business, The Deli, were disappointing. Kohn didn't make as much as he was expecting from the food cart he set up outside.

"I was giving away food to Fort Myers police," Kohn said, "and I still had a bunch left over at the end of the night."

The city denied Zombicon a $50,000 special-event grant this year, which event organizers had said could contribute to a projected loss of about $8,670. Organizers had hoped to use any profits to send children to local art summer camps.

Zombicon organizer Janet DeMarco did not return calls Tuesday requesting comment on whether the event was able to raise money for charity.

Zombicon owes the city about $9,500 for expenses including police, cleanup, a city stage, road closures and renting a city park across from Harborside. Event organizers have agreed to pay by the end of the month, Saeed Kazemi, city public works director, said.

Last week, DeMarco said Zombicon will pay its bills on time.

The occasional "bloody" handprint on a palm tree or "blood" splatter on the street remained Tuesday, but most evidence of Saturday's event had been removed. On First Street, a second-story balcony broke off an apartment building and was hanging at an angle Tuesday.

Dodson, owner of the Hideaway Sports Bar, said he saw about 10 people crammed onto the tiny balcony earlier in the night.

A man required medical attention for a cut leg after he fell through a window of the First National Bank on First Street, according to a Fort Myers Police report. The window was still boarded up Tuesday.

Fort Myers Police arrested four people downtown during Zombicon - two on charges of disorderly intoxication, one on a charge of disturbing the peace and one on a charge of liquor possession by someone under 21. Officers also responded to four medical service calls in addition to the man who fell through the window. Those calls included a man found unconscious and convulsing outside Tac-o-rama in Patio de Leon, and a woman found unconscious outside City Tavern.

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