Upper East Side businesses pray for a prosperous papal visit


Although Pope Francis' trip to the United States this week will be celebrated by many, not everyone is excited for his arrival. Local restaurants and shop owners on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where the papal residence is located, are particularly ambivalent about what his stay could mean for business. Some say it won't be good.

Pope Francis
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"I just wish the pope's house was not on 72nd Street," said Cesar Linares, who manages food store Marché Madison on nearby East 74th Street.

Linares, who worked at Marché Madison during the last three papal visits to Manhattan, said he plans to stay open despite expecting only a couple customers. The store's proximity to where the pope is staying will also affect deliveries, Linares said, so he will now have to pick up produce a few streets away.

Giuseppe Bruno, owner of Caravaggio Ristorante, is also not thrilled about Pope Francis' arrival to his gourmet restaurant's neighborhood.

"I expect to see a lot less people," said Bruno. "It's going to be a nightmare for me."

Read More Pope visit will lift spirits more than local economies

Bruno said he believes that business will fall 20 percent from Thursday to Saturday, the three days the pope is scheduled to be in New York City. He noted his restaurant will be hurt primarily because local residents of the Upper East Side who frequent Caravaggio are deliberately fleeing their homes to avoid traffic and potential security threats.

"People who live in this neighborhood have a lot of money. Most told me last week that they will leave," said Bruno. "They have country houses."

Cesar Linares, manager at Marche Madison prepares for Pope Francis' visit. The Pope will be residing in the UES neighborhood during his NYC visit.
Krysia Lenzo | CNBC

Steve Wolf, president of antique porcelain and pottery store Bardith, said he was given a choice by the police of either leaving or staying locked in his store for security reasons during the last papal visit in 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI.

"The police came to my store and they said 'in or out,'" said Wolf who decided to remain locked in his store for two hours.

As Bardith is in the line-of-sight of the papal residence, Wolf knows the drill when it comes to the arrival of the pope. He is certain that businesses in the area will basically shutter for a day or two.

"I'll be here, but I'm not expecting other people to be here," said Wolf who has worked at Bardith for 13 years. He even told Bardith's store manager not to come in on Friday because her efforts to travel around New York City would not be justified by the few customers who may stop by the store.

Other shops in the area are more optimistic about prospective sales—mostly because they are new and do not know what to expect. Christine Young, supervisor of posh macaron store Ladurée, was more hopeful about how the pope's visit will influence her store's sales. Young said she thinks the papal visit could bring more tourists to the Upper East Side, which is mostly known as a residential neighborhood. But she conceded that she is taking a wait-and-see attitude, as there is still a possibility the police could unexpectedly close a street and hurt her business.

"I don't think anything of this magnitude has happened since I've been here," said Young. "So I'm really not 100 percent sure what we will do."

One thing is 100 percent, according to Gilda Perez-Atlan, consultant at perfume store Frédéric Malle near the papal residence: "If you leave your store open when the pope arrives, you may not get any customers. But if you close your store, you will definitely not get any customers."

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