If you wanted a Saturday night table at a hot Philadelphia restaurant, it was yours for the taking.
That included half-price deals at Vetri Ristorante.
Restaurateurs, particularly in or near the papal security zone, reported poor business all week, with little improvement through Saturday.
Said Stephen Starr, who owns 20 Philadelphia restaurants: "This affected business worse than Hurricane Sandy. The city scared all of our customers away. We have virtually no reservations. This is unnecessary overkill. What should have been a feeling of family and community was turned into a police and military operation."
While applauding the pope's visit, restaurateur Marc Vetri took to Facebook Saturday night to lambaste the city's leaders.
Rather than engaging Philadelphians, he said, officials "decided to roll out the red carpet for everyone making the pilgrimage, and roll us up in the carpet to place in storage until Monday. . . .
"We didn't need to close every street, bridge and alley, scaring most people," he said. "The goal was to give a shot of adrenaline to our economy, not hurt small and large businesses alike so they had to close."
The slowdown seemed to have affected restaurants at all price points. Business at the three casual Marathon Grills in Center City has been "terrible, especially at 1818 Market St.," said Cary Borish, whose family owns the restaurants.
"We spent a huge amount of time planning and investing in a lot of food and we wound up donating much of it today. Major bummer." He cited poor planning on the city's part.
The reservation site OpenTable showed plenty of available seats for Saturday night.
Pod, the popular Starr restaurant in University City, will be closed Sunday because many of the access roads are blocked. Hop Sing Laundromat, a cocktail bar in Chinatown, closed after business Thursday. Chinatown was a ghost town Friday night.
Michael Schulson said he had to close his casual Independence Beer Garden, across from Independence Mall. Business was off at his posher Sampan. "This is a great opportunity for Philadelphia and our community, but due to the enormity of this event it's been a little challenging," he said Saturday afternoon.
Charlotte Calmels, co-owner of Le Cheri at the Art Alliance on Rittenhouse Square, was outside by a table, selling sandwiches to passersby - mostly journalists and locals.
"It's been a disaster for business. We should get a pope tax break," she said. "I'm not even at 20 percent of my revenue for the week. That's why we're out here. If we can get $50, we'll take it. I have to process payroll next week."
In Fairmount, London Grill owner Terry McNally said the restaurant was slow but the bar was doing OK, thanks to locals and a lot of volunteers. "It's just not the business we expected and not the usual business," she said. "We shall see. Overall, it's a very bad week for all of us."
In fact, at least one establishment planned to celebrate the return to normalcy. Bar Bombon, near Rittenhouse Square, was hosting a post-pope industry night starting at 8 p.m. Sunday with discounted drinks.
Turnout may be down at Talula's Garden, but business was brisk at its more casual companion, Talula's Daily, said co-owner Aimee Olexy.
"People aren't getting a big dinner. They're grazing and going," she said.
Garden's Sunday brunch is usually solidly booked, but "we're only seeing the most die-hard" of customers, Olexy said.
At Vetri, "I can tell you that we're open and we have reservations available," general manager Chuck Lisenbee said Saturday.
The restaurant was celebrating its 17th anniversary Sunday night with a fixed-price menu featuring classic dishes for half what it typically charges: $75, compared with the normal $150.
At the Oyster House, owner Sam Mink saw business halved last week. His lobster rolls were moving swimmingly Saturday at lunch, but at deep discount: $15 at lunch, instead of the usual $26.
He said he was happy to see Pope Francis in town, but "I definitely feel for some of the smaller restaurants that are going to be struggling a little bit more."
The owner of Philadelphia's best-known gelato company, Stephanie Reitano of Capogiro, said: "You want to show the world what Philly has to offer. The weeks leading up to the pope's visit were difficult. It was hard to get around. Our bar this afternoon [at Capofitto, her trattoria in Old City] was full of industry people commiserating about how slow it is, how the locals fled, all that food ordered and left in walk-ins. It was just too difficult to get around."