Originally created 06/11/04

Residents get apology for security nuisance



SAVANNAH, Ga. - As usually bustling downtown restaurants sat nearly empty and encircled by ominous cement and metal barricades this week, a homeland security adviser for President Bush apologized for the inconvenience.

Although there is no specific intelligence indicating terrorists might attempt to attack the G-8 Summit this week, officials had to prepare for any eventuality, homeland security adviser Frances Townsend said.

"Security is the most important thing," Ms. Townsend said. "You try to measure the security procedures to match what you think the threat is. But no matter how carefully you weigh this, it's bound to have an impact on the community."

But those who make their living off the usual flow of tourists are looking around this week and wondering whether the 5-foot security gates, dozens of armed officers standing around and Coast Guard gunboats speeding up and down the Savannah River are overkill.

Instead of waiting for a table for lunch, it was easy to have the pick of any seat at The Warehouse restaurant.

"You can look around and see what it's doing to business," bartender Melissa Sowers said.

At 12:30 p.m. on any other day, every table in the place is full, Ms. Sowers said.

Tourists Karen and Dennis Peterson didn't seem to mind. So far, all of the establishments they've visited have been open and blissfully deserted.

"Nothing's very crowded, and it's very nice," Ms. Peterson said.

Gates and guards have restricted portions of Savannah's famed River Street, the downtown's main route, particularly those around the Hyatt hotel, but most businesses along the riverfront are open.

Olympia Cafe employee Jessica Bartlett said she thinks the security gates are deterring the few people who venture to River Street.

"They see the gates and they turn around," Ms. Bartlett said.