Business owners say 'downtown Augusta is safe' despite brutal attacks

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Monday, May 6, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- It started with a fight involving at least a dozen people that broke out last Saturday night around closing time.

That fight happened in front of the J.B. White's Building on Broad Street. At the end of the video, the sound of two gunshots breaks up the fight. Click here to watch the full video of the fight.

Last Thursday, a man leaving Riverfront Pub on the 500 block of Broad Street was assaulted and carjacked walking to his car a little before midnight.

On Friday, a couple sitting on a bench by the Riverwalk was robbed and then struck with a metal object multiple times. The man is still in critical condition at the hospital.

This series of brutal attacks in downtown Augusta has some worried, but business owners want people to know that downtown Augusta is safe.

"There should be no discouragement in coming out and supporting your downtown businesses because, for the most part, it is good," said Beamies at the River Manager Matt Wanninger.

Beamies at the River sits just steps away from where a couple was attacked on the Riverwalk on First Friday.

"First Friday started out awesome when the community was involved," Wanninger said. "They had things going on at the Common, and now it literally turns into the wrong crowd."

Wanninger has worked at Beamies for 10 years and has seen firsthand how the news of violence in downtown Augusta can keep customers away.

"Who wants to come out if they're worried about getting panhandled or getting pickpocketed or getting assaulted in the parking lot?" he said. "You never know how far they're gonna take it."

But they say incidents like the most recent ones don't define downtown.

"Downtown as a whole is getting better, it's getting more saturated with business," said Dr. Ben Casella, president of the Downtown Augusta Alliance.

One of those new businesses is The Boar's Head Public House on Broad Street.

"I thought I could help revitalize it with a new restaurant," said Boar's Head Owner Musa Anderson.

Anderson opened the restaurant in December and encourages others to do the same.

"We all are doing what we can but we need other places to come also," Anderson said.

She says the only way to make downtown better is to continue revitalizing it.

"Having so many people in and out all the time helps the area come to life and be safer," she said.

"This is only a bump in the road if Augusta lets it be a bump in the road," Casella said.

The Downtown Augusta Alliance says it will be holding its monthly board meeting outside at the Riverwalk on Wednesday morning to show support for the area.

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