- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2003

VIRGINIA BEACH (AP) — The airplane began to circle about 12:30 p.m. “Best Italian,” advertised a long banner pulled behind it, plugging Il Giardino Ristorante on the city’s oceanfront.

Restaurants throughout the city, especially those close to the courthouse where John Allen Muhammad’s trial is in its third week, had been hoping to draw members of the news media who are converging on the area.

Some have been rewarded, but others haven’t been so lucky. Peter’s Steak, Seafood and Sushi has lost about half of its revenue since the trial began Oct. 14, said owner Peter Park. Regular customers seem to be staying away, worried that the area is too crowded.

Mr. Park hired more employees and was ready to offer his four dining rooms to customers. Instead, it’s been hard to fill one, he said. He called business good before the trial. Now he can’t wait for it to end.

“The holiday season is coming; that’s what I’m looking at,” he said.

Parking in the municipal complex is a little tighter, but traffic is lighter. Princess Anne Road, the main thoroughfare near the courthouse, “has become a ghost street,” said Pat Joyner, who works at the 7-Eleven there.

A Zero’s Subs began opening at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast, which it doesn’t normally serve. But it’s on the opposite end of the municipal complex from the courthouse, and the expected crowds haven’t come.

“We expected to be swarmed,” Zero’s employee Dina Mainville said. “We were serving breakfast; no one wanted it. Nobody was coming in.”

James V. Koch, an economics professor at Old Dominion University, said the trial was never expected to have much economic effect on the area. The proceedings have drawn about 200 more bodies to Virginia Beach, and not always that many on some days.

At least one restaurant has seen positive results. PMS Deli is a few miles from the courthouse. Partners Kim Hager, Wendy Davis and Tammy Shotts, realizing the media might not be able to get away from the courthouse during lunch, decided to offer delivery service for the trial’s duration.

Employees distributed fliers early pushing sandwiches with names such as “Bloated Cheeseburger” and “Honey Do.”

Each day, the deli delivers 40 to 60 lunches to the crews parked outside the courthouse, as well as to police officers who are part of the increased security force.


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