- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2001

City leaders in Washington, D.C. really want consumers to know that Washington is open for business.
The economic decline after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the closing of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is forcing city leaders to conjure up innovative legislation and promotions to encourage consumer spending and recoup lost revenue.
Council members are expected to propose tax-free holidays and emergency relief for businesses during today's annual legislative meeting. D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams joined the City Council yesterday to introduce a bill providing $100 million in emergency relief by way of loans and loan guarantees for businesses suffering economic hardship.
"It is during times such as these that our government must step in and provide emergency assistance to its people," said council member David A. Catania, at-large Republican.
The plan, which has enough support for passage, would provide low-interest loans up to $1 million, or loan guarantees of up to $5 million. The companies must be District-based and engaged in the restaurant, catering, lodging or surface-transportation industries. The council is expected to make amendments to the bill and work out funding in today's legislative meeting.
Council member Harold Brazil, at-large Democrat, also planned to introduce a bill for another tax-free holiday in the District. Residents would be able to shop in the city without paying sales taxes for purchases under $100.
"We think we will try to have the holiday for 10 days after Thanksgiving when Christmas shopping begins," said Mr. Brazil's spokeswoman, Jessica White.
The city is beginning to show signs of economic healing, and members of the council say that this legislation will speed up that process. The city has been particularly hampered by the closure of Reagan National. The White House announced yesterday that it will authorize the reopening of the airport with new security measures.
The city estimated a $2 billion loss in revenue from the hotel and tourism industry by the end of the year if the local economy does not improve.
Mr. Williams over the weekend joined Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening and four other governors on a trip to New York City to promote business there and in Washington.
Mr. Williams said that the spirit in that city gave him new hope as he returned home yesterday for a tour of the Pentagon, the American History Museum and lunch at the Red Sage restaurant near Metro Center.
"Around the nation, we need to return to our way of life so that struggling working families in the hospitality industries can get back to theirs, and that is what our tour was about," Mr. Glendening said.
Separately, the Greater Washington Board of Trade is expected to plan events to boost local business.
Some say business downtown is starting to get back to normal.
"We're getting reports from people at art galleries and shops that they had wonderful patronage," said Jo-Ann Neuhaus, executive director of the Pennsylvania Quarter Neighborhood Association.
It's not business as usual, she said, but restaurants, shops and bars in the quarter spanning from Pennsylvania Avenue to Chinatown and between the National Building Museum and 11th Street NW are doing well.
The Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District has no plans yet.
"We're waiting to see what the city is going to do, what the response will be," said Seamus Houston, spokesman for the BID.
"We have several ideas kicking around, but nothing we've launched yet," he said.
Staff writer Kristina Stefanova contributed to this report.

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