Snow turns uptown Charlotte into a virtual Ghost Town

Uptown Charlotte, Banktown to many where more than 100,000 people call their 9-to-5 home, was virtually Ghost Town Charlotte on Wednesday.

Usually during lunchtime, uptown’s sidewalks are busy with office workers.

Wednesday they were empty, except for workers clearing snow-covered sidewalks that few would use, or keeping floors dry in towers that few would walk on. Bankers and lawyers were a rare sight as Wednesday’s snow and sleet kept them working from home or taking the day off.

Most restaurants were closed at least midway through the lunch period – if they opened at all.

E2 emeril’s eatery was open largely for Wells Fargo employees working in the Duke Energy building.

“People still have to eat,” said pastry chef Stephanie Nikolic. The restaurant, she said, had planned to stay open Wednesday night, but it closed about 3 p.m.

Freddy Rivera, who works in IT for Wells, made it to work at the Duke building Wednesday.

“Some things can’t be done from home,” he said. “We have a job to do. When the trade floor is operating, we’re open for business.

“There’s just no way around it.”

Wells reserved rooms at the Westin for about 100 trade floor employees Wednesday night.

Further up South Tryon Street, the Wells Fargo Atrium, a popular spot to sit and eat lunch, was empty about 1 p.m. except for Sha Parks and Ariq Mayo sitting at one table playing a Japanese card game.

Neither works uptown but likes being there.

“It’s especially nice today because there are not so many businessmen around,” Mayo said.

Parks didn’t like the snow, but he has friends who wanted it.

“I’m looking forward to having a talk with them to see if they still like it,” he said. “It’s getting pretty bad out there.”

So bad that Chicago investment banker Bill Lampier, in town for business, couldn’t get home. His flight was canceled.

“Coming from Chicago, who would have thought I’d be doing business in the South and get stuck because of snow,” Lampier said, sitting in the lobby of the Omni Charlotte Hotel. “I’m just waiting to see if I can get a room. I think they’re doing a booming business.”

Wednesday’s snow brought good fortune to other Charlotte hotels, too.

Many uptown – including the Holiday Inn, the Hampton Inn, the Hilton Garden Inn and the Courtyard Marriott – were sold out by early Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s one of those days,” said a front desk agent at the Courtyard Marriott who asked not to be named. “You’ve got plenty of (flight) cancellations. And you have workers who are stuck uptown and have to find a place to stay.”

Will Potts, a front desk agent at the Hilton Garden Inn, said a lot of his customers were “extending their stays because their flights got canceled.”

Banker Kris Burnham said his unit was given the option to work at home, or work uptown. He and his girlfriend live in South End and are only two stops away on the Lynx light-rail’s Blue Line. So they chose to come in.

Burnham was the only person working on his floor. Usually there are 70.

“It’s kind of eerie,” he said. “There was none of the usual office chatter. Some of the other folks have the capacity and setup to work from home. It was just easier for me to come in.”

His window faces out onto Tryon Street. It wasn’t a distraction, he said.

“Just a joy to look at,” he said. “I’m from New York.”

Yet for much of Wednesday afternoon, he watched the Lynx website to make sure they didn’t shut down his ride home.

“If they do, I’m out of here,” Burnham said. “Otherwise, I’ll have to walk or take a cab on streets that I was trying to avoid in the first place.” Reporter Ames Alexander contributed to this article.