As riots and looting plagued the country on Saturday, May 30, 2020, Americans watched the news in shock and dismay.
They saw violent outbursts, police retaliation with tear gas and rubber bullets, and businesses go up in flames from NYC to Minneapolis to Los Angeles. Even tiny La Mesa, CA was not immune to the destruction.
But while the entire country reels from a horrifying case of police brutality and the unnecessary loss of life, few fully understand the economic impacts of fires, riots, and looting. There is no replacement for lost life. But many business owners are about to find out that there will be no replacing their livelihoods, either.
If you own a brick-and-mortar business, you know that insurance policies will only cover so much of your loss.
Government grants and assistance can help, but the years of financial and physical investment will be lost.
No Demographic Has Been Spared
When riots break out, businesses in close proximity are in danger regardless of business type or owner. With protests being organized across the country both in cities and suburbs, the risk to businesses is growing.
Many businesses that just recently reopened after the Coronavirus shutdowns are closing out of an abundance of caution as tensions rise.
In Minneapolis, black business owners returned to rubble after attending peaceful protests. In Tampa, immigrant-owned businesses were casualties of fires and theft. In La Mesa, mom-and-pop stores and a local supermarket were destroyed. In all cases, hundreds of jobs were lost. For owners, years of hard work are gone.
It’s important for business owners to recognize that anarchy and anger will not spare them because of what they sell or who they are.
Protecting Businesses Amid Rioting
Riots by nature are violent and involve large crowds. Business owners whose buildings were torched or ransacked over the weekend have come forward and spoken out about the speed and aggression with which mobs took over entire streets and neighborhoods. Those that escaped similar fates required groups of visibly armed security guards.
While being armed is an important start to protecting your property, strength in numbers is just as valuable.
Fighting off looters on your own is not realistic, and resulting injuries could land you in legal trouble. Calling 911 is not a viable course of action at a time when police are direct targets of the criminals in question.
For many business owners, the best path is to remove all cash and valuables from your storefront and keep your insurance policy close by.
You can also attempt to assess points of weakness on your property. You may want to invest in roll-down shutters to cover glass windows, as well as deadbolts and steel doors.
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Movement to online platforms and working out of your home may extend the life of your business, but will require additional investment, knowledge, and resilience. Now is the time to salvage what you can and either move forward with creativity, or possibly pursue a new venture.
Small business is the backbone of America, and business ownership is a dream for many Americans. During this period of unrest, protecting those businesses will become a full-time job, and rebuilding can become a life’s work. Use all of the resources at your disposal.