Uptown hotels regroup after a night of violence

Rioting repairs at Hilton Garden Inn

Video by John D. Simmons
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Video by John D. Simmons

Uptown hotels spent Thursday repairing damage and reassuring guests following a violent night of protesting that cast their properties in an international spotlight.

Cable news stations focused heavily on protesters in the area around Trade and Tryon, which includes The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte and the Omni Hotel. At the Omni, protesters saw police in riot gear marching single file toward the parking deck. Witnesses also saw medics carry a man who was shot to the Omni.

The second night of protesting followed Tuesday’s fatal police shooting of a black man.

In a statement, Molly Phillips, corporate director of communications and public relations for Omni Hotels and Resorts, said it was “deeply saddened by the events over the past few days.”

“The Omni Charlotte Hotel is safe and secure, and is currently operating as usual,” the statement said. “We are continuing to stay close with local authorities to make sure we’re doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our guests and associates, which is our top priority.”

At the Ritz-Carlton, a group using the hotel decided to check out early Thursday and relocate to another space outside uptown to finalize their meeting, “which is understandable,” said Seamus Gallagher, director of sales and marketing.

When protesters swarmed outside Wednesday night, the hotel went on full lock down, evacuating the lobby and allowing only guests inside. "We did have people banging on the windows by Bar Cocoa” located inside the lobby, but they held together, Gallagher said.

Protesters damaged outside light fixtures, ripped up a garden and trampled two cars parked on the front drive. “It could have been a lot worse,” said Gallagher, who said things were cleaned up Thursday morning.

Hilton Garden Inn and the Hampton Inn brought in extra staff and managers from other area hotels for Thursday evening, according to Kerry Ranson, chief development officer for HP Hotels.

They also brought in additional security. “In places where we normally have one guard, we have increased the number to two,” Ranson said in an email.

Plans changed at some places. A Thursday fundraising luncheon at the Westin Charlotte for the health nonprofit Care Ring was canceled, according to a Facebook post.

Some are waiting to see about more possible cancellations, including rooms reserved for the Carolina Panthers game and weekend weddings.

But Sid Smith, executive director of the Charlotte Area Hotel Association, doesn't anticipate any long-term negative economic effects.

“Other cities have had incidents like this, and after they are over, businesses and travelers return,” Smith said.

“But we regret it happened...we regret of course the loss of any life, and injury and citizens to first responders.”

Protesters have taken to the streets of Charlotte following the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday. Officials allege a black officer opened fire on Scott after he emerged from his car with a gun in the University City area. Family mem

Ann Doss Helms contributed to this story.