TAMPA, Fla. — The parties for lawyers and lobbyists are not going according to plan at the Republican National Convention.
The threat of Tropical Storm Isaac’s disruptive wind and rain led convention officials to announce that the first day’s official events Monday would be all but canceled, although the storm drifted so far westward that the outer rain bands left the city relatively unscathed.
As a result, the party schedules got tossed around, too. An event put together by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld for Monday night was supposed to open at 10:30 p.m., timed with the end of tonight's official speeches in the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The late-night event was dubbed an “after-gavel” party.
But Republican officials, citing safety concerns for delegates, decided to officially start the convention Monday at 2 p.m.—but then take a recess until Tuesday after just 10 minutes. Akin Gump moved its event to the less boisterous time of 8:30 p.m., rather than switch to another day its "A Salute to Michigan" soiree that features at least one of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s sons on the guest list.
Akin Gump’s invitees will head over to Ybor City, a part of Tampa known for a lively strip of bars and restaurants, to party to the music of Motown sensations The Spinners. The event will feature a two-story, 12,000 square foot amphitheater with a rotating dance floor. Promoters of a planned outdoor concert by Lynyrd Skynyrd weren't so lucky. That show was cancelled because of the weather.
Other groups moved their events to later in the week. The Republican National Lawyers Association postponed its party from Monday night to Thursday morning, the last day of the convention, likely changing the flavor of the event billed as a reception for lawyers into more of a farewell lunch. “The safety of our members and guests is always our first concern,” the group’s web site said Monday.
Some of the attendees had Monday flights to the area canceled.
On the ground, it turned out organizers and officials had little to worry about. The Tampa area got plenty of wind and rain overnight, but by noon Monday the sun was out and the town was drying out from some minor flooding. Many of the city’s smaller venues like restaurants and bars are still hosting private parties tonight despite periodic rain showers.
The wind is making bay waters choppy, but a cruise on the yacht StarShip in Tampa went out Monday, a good sign for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which is hosting the cruise to welcome the Colorado delegation on Tuesday, when Tampa will be mostly out of Isaac’s reach.
The party planners are having the same trouble as the official schedulers—they're now trying to fit four days of events into three. Rescheduling could make some events conflict with official business or meetings.
The storm has even dampened the protestors. A labor organizer told USA Today that 16 buses of protesters canceled because bus companies didn't want their equipment and drivers heading toward a possible storm. The protest, expected to draw thousands of people, instead had only a few hundred.
Sunday night’s rain showers couldn’t stop the first major party of the week on the baseball field inside Tropicana Stadium in Saint Petersburg, where the Tampa Bay Host Committee offered complimentary top-shelf liquor, giant bowls of paella and dancing Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders.
To get to that party, or into any of the official events in downtown Tampa, everyone must navigate concrete, steel or heavy fencing, and pass through several checkpoints for credentials including one guarded by five National Guard members with assault rifles.
Finally, at the door, all convention-goers must pass through metal detectors that prohibit bags, some types of cameras and even whole fruit like bananas, as one reporter discovered. The streets of Tampa and Saint Petersburg are filled with roving groups of five to 10 law enforcement officers dressed in tan uniforms, brought in from across the state.