CNN no longer taking over Turner Hall for DNC coverage

NOW: CNN no longer taking over Turner Hall for DNC coverage


Madison, Wis. (CBS 58) – The head of the Pabst Theater Group said Friday that CNN will no longer take over Turner Hall for its DNC coverage, signaling an expected continued dwindling of attendance for the event as the ongoing pandemic pushes officials to consider a modified version.

Gary Witt, the CEO of Pabst Theater Group, tweeted the development Friday and called for the city’s leaders to push for having the DNC return to Milwaukee for 2024 because the event’s expected economic boom will be significantly less because of the pandemic.

“We as Milwaukee deserve the full DNC,” Witt told CBS 58 in an interview. “If our leaders won’t push and pursue for 2024 or that it is not possible, then we as business owners and citizens need to make it known.”

Pabst Theater Group owns popular downtown venues such as Turner Hall, Pabst Theater and Riverside Theater. Like other business owners, Witt said he and his partners planned for a once-in-a-generation opportunity with the DNC coming to Milwaukee.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of nearly all large summer events and has raised doubts about whether an in-person convention is possible.

Democratic leaders, including presumptive nominee Joe Biden, DNC Chair Tom Perez and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have all suggested various options for a modified convention that would allow the party to promote and launch their nominee to take on President Trump in the November General Election while also prioritizing the safety of the public and those in attendance.

Earlier in the week, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said nothing have been confirmed, but that, “shifting to more virtual would be ideal to protect the public.”

While the end result of those discussions remains to be seen, it’s clear a full convention, with what was expected to be some 50,000 people coming to Milwaukee for the event, is not what is going to happen.

Witt wants the city to press on the Democratic National Committee to committing to bringing the event back for 2024, though he said it may be up to business leaders to apply that pressure.

“We would benefit from moving the DNC to 2024 and I think it will not happen, unless it is said out loud,” Witt said.

Prior to the pandemic, Mayor Tom Barrett said he had hoped this year’s event would highlight Milwaukee’s potential to host future events, including the Republican National Convention. During a news conference Friday, Barrett said that effort will continue, but he does not plan to abandon a strong effort for this year’s event.

“I’m not in the crowd of saying ‘let’s just throw in the towel and give it to us four years from now,’” Barrett said. “If we’re going to get it four years from now we’re going to earn it four years from now and we’re going to earn it by having a great convention this year.”

Witt cautions that any modified version of the convention that is held this summer will put a strain on the city’s police and fire departments as well as hospitals which have already been taxed with the pandemic. Witt notes the city needs to prioritize its own needs over that of the democratic party’s.

“We have to be a little bit selfish here,” Witt said. “We have to care about ourselves and our city and do what’s best for our city. […] We need to be leaders and make it known that we want this convention to take place in 2024.”

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