As the coronavirus has turned the world upside down, locksmiths are seeing the fallout:

  • Shuttered businesses, notably restaurants, bars, and other retail stores, have idled thousands of workers, many of whom may still have a key to their place of employment.

  • Business owners view downtime as a chance to order repairs, maintenance, and upgrades to doors and windows that otherwise would be in use.

  • With fewer people on the streets, there’s a fear of property crime such as thefts and vandalism, especially since low-level arrests are being curtailed.

“We’re the first people in a business and the last people out of a business,” said Jim Doyle of Delaware Valley Lock & Safe Co., who secures hundreds of restaurants and other businesses in the Philadelphia area. (He is loath to identify his clients, but if you can think of a downtown restaurant, it’s likely on his roster. “We had a running joke when we started this business back in 1994: ‘We service the restaurants we can’t afford to eat at,’” said his wife, Nancy.)

The silver lining is that he and his clients have plenty of time to work unimpeded by customers. “It’s hard to service a front door when you have a breakfast rush and then a lunch rush and then a dinner rush,” Jim Doyle said.

But just because business is steady right now, “we’re hurting like everyone else,” said Nancy Doyle. If the shutdowns are extended, ongoing locksmith maintenance may not be needed. Plus, Jim Doyle is trying to safeguard himself from the virus while on the street. “The job has to be done,” he said.

Rene Perez of LockOut Pros locksmiths said some customers have expressed worries of smash-and-grabs, and are beefing up security. “I live near South Street, and I remember all of those Greek picnics [a decade ago] when cinder blocks were being thrown through windows and police cars were being flipped,” he said.