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Philly merchants from Wawa to Pa. liquor stores board up and close early, with worries about post-election unrest

About 15 Wawas in the city have been shuttered for the week along with scores of retailers.

Philadelphia Police stand in front of the boarded-up Citizens Bank at 52nd and Market Streets on Election Day.
Philadelphia Police stand in front of the boarded-up Citizens Bank at 52nd and Market Streets on Election Day.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

Merchants in Philadelphia — including national and regional chains such as CVS and Wawa — boarded up windows and made other preparations Tuesday to ward off damage from feared post-election unrest.

The city has already been reeling from scattered looting and property destruction in reaction to the killing of Walter Wallace Jr. by police on Oct. 26. Many of those businesses were also hit during widespread unrest in May that followed the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was asphyxiated by a Minneapolis police officer.

Much of Center City Philadelphia was quieter than usual on Tuesday. There was little foot traffic along the main shopping corridors.

Nationwide, retailers have already suffered an estimated $1 billion in insured losses from property damage and theft this year, according to estimates from the Insurance Information Institute, making this year’s protests “the costliest civil disorder in U.S. history," the Washington Post reported.

Sneaker chain Foot Locker, for example, said it had incurred $18 million in costs from “recent social unrest” during the summer, the Post said.

Among scores of other businesses, more than 80 independent drugstores and two dozen liquor stores in Philadelphia and in nearby suburbs reported break-ins and looting last week.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board boarded up the windows of many of those stricken Fine Wine and Good Spirit Shops. Those that remained open were ordered to close at 5 p.m. “until further notice,” spokesperson Shawn Kelly said.

“Some liquor stores are still offering full service,” Kelly said. “But after last week many reverted to curbside service only.”

About 15 Wawas in the city have been similarly boarded up and will reopen “at the end of the week,” a spokesperson for the convenience store chain said.

Mike Dunn, spokesperson for Mayor Kenney, said police were closely monitoring activity throughout the city.

“At this time, there is no curfew tonight,” Dunn said. “Should that change, the city would communicate that through press release and social media. To be clear, there has not been a curfew in Philadelphia since last Friday, Oct. 30.”

In cities across the United States, merchants have fortified their storefronts.

In Beverly Hills, crews on Monday boarded up every one of the 70 luxury retailers along Rodeo Drive.

“Ferragamo is boarded up, Prada is boarded up, Dolce & Gabbana is boarded up,” said Kathy Gohari, vice president of the Rodeo Drive Committee, told the Post. “Rodeo Drive is among the most desirable streets in the world, which means we’re one of the biggest targets. What we do not welcome is people with ill intentions, who are here to destruct property.”

In Chicago, the city mustered snowplows, salt trucks and other “pre-staged” vehicles to use as barriers, if needed, to shut down certain areas, according to Adam Skaf, a spokesperson for the Magnificent Mile Association, representing the city’s elite shopping district.

Big pharmacy chains also were taking caution.

Several CVS stores in Philadelphia were limiting store hours after reinforcing their windows with sheets of plywood, including one at 23rd and South Streets that was set to close at 7 p.m. Normal hours are expected to resume later this week.

“Any store with boarded windows will continue to be open to serve customers as long as it is safe to do so,” said Amy Thibault, a spokesperson for CVS Health. “We do have a handful of stores in Philadelphia that remain closed due to damage from last week’s unrest.”

Until last week’s unrest, businesses in Center City had appeared to be on the mend. The number of boarded-up storefronts had dropped from about 256 to 55. On Tuesday, the number had risen to well more than 100, with major retailers such as Boyds and small bars alike taking extra security precautions.

“Very little is open around Rittenhouse Square,” said Corie Moskow, executive director of Rittenhouse Row. “The city didn’t officially say [businesses] should close, but left it to their discretion. Some are still closed from the unrest last week. Some may have closed so employees could vote.”

The city issued a list of recommended actions to residents and businesses:

  1. Have a plan to quickly communicate with your employees, and educate them on how to report suspicious activity.

  2. Bring signs, flags, flower pots, or any other non-fixed objects inside.

  3. Keep the property well-lit when the business is closed.

  4. If security cameras are installed, make sure that they are working and that you have data storage available before leaving the property; windows, doors, and any access points should be visible to the cameras.

Moskow spoke for the merchants and city residents already suffering from eight months of a pandemic.

“I just want things to get back to normal, for everyone to be safe, and be able to run businesses again," Moskow said. "Violence isn’t going to help anybody.”

This article contains information from the Washington Post.