Stores around Manhattan are boarding up their windows in preparation for Election Day unrest. Plywood panels can be seen all around the East Village, Soho, and Midtown as business owners show unease about the potential aftermath of the election.
“We don’t know if there’s going to be any civil unrest, and we kind of just want to protect ourselves,” said Bethanie Highsmith, a retail assistant at Buffalo Exchange on 714 Broadway.
Store owners are expressing their concerns as similar riots have occurred in the recent past. “When George Floyd died, they destroyed our doors, destroyed the whole inside of our shop, stole all of our merchandise,” said Jason Ackerman, the General Manager of Soho Ink, a clothing and tattoo store on Lafayette Street. “So, I don’t want to go through that again.” Over 50 storefronts were smashed in Soho on the night of May 31 as protests gave way to vandalism and looting.
In a time when small businesses around New York City have already been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, some store owners are apprehensive that post-election looting could lead to more losses that insurance policies won’t be able to cover.
“People assume insurance is going to cover it, but they just don’t,” Ackerman said. “They basically gave us 25 cents to every dollar that was lost.”
Although basic liability insurance is required from most landlords, each business would have a different level of coverage based on their insurance policies.
It is estimated that businesses have accumulated $1 billion in insured losses from the looting and riots following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Even owners of stores that had not previously been looted are taking precautions to prevent any damage.
“We are just following suit with the other businesses in the area,” said Vinny Felice, an employee at Showfields, in Noho. “A big part of our store is the windows and window displays and a lot of our products are directly behind the windows, so we want to make sure that when people are in here they are safe.”