SEATTLE, WA – Seattle downtown businesses continue to suffer the aftermath of the year’s protests-turned-riots and COVID-19. Many have closed permanently, reflecting the devastating outcome of a downtown area that has now been called a ghost town.
According to Don Blakeney, spokesperson for the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA), deteriorating safety conditions and COVID restrictions are combining to push businesses out.
Last week, the DSA sent a letter to City Hall, inviting elected leaders to see what is happening on the ground and hoping they make a pledge to keep businesses safe. Blakeney said:
“There hasn’t been a huge reply from the City Council to be honest.”
Two months ago, some downtown businesses sued the City Council for not keeping their neighborhoods safe for their employees and customers.
The DSA reports that since March, more than 100 street-level businesses in Seattle have called it quits. One recent closing was Columbia Sportwear, and two days ago, the IGA grocery store at the corner of 3rd and Pike, closed after 12 years operating at that location.
In a written statement, IGA Store owners said:
“Economic, social and political issues associated with doing business in the city of Seattle are ultimately the reasons for closing.”
In an interview with KING 5, owners said they feel too many people were loitering around the store for safety, and they blamed the city of Seattle for not taking action.
DSA officials say COVID-19 and plummeting foot traffic have only exacerbated problems, including shoplifting and the cost of paying for security. Add that to the post-riot ghost town and graffiti laden appearance of the downtown area, and it is little wonder that business owners find it difficult to begin again.
Hard to Start Over After Riots
The lack of enthusiasm to begin anew is not surprising. Victor Matheson, professor of economics at College of the Holy Cross, looked back at the 1992 Los Angeles Rodney King riots.
“Economic activity in the areas affected didn’t return for at least 10 years, at least not to previous levels.”
He said Los Angeles riots cost almost $5 billion in economic activity measured in lost sales over 10 years.
“If people don’t feel safe where their businesses are, then they don’t feel a need to rebuild.”
It does appear that businesses are leaving the city in hordes, as evidenced by a slew of tweets from those departing the region.
Same. My company permanently closed our offices there. Employees can get relocated if they want. 83% said yes
— Jackson Meholff (@meholff) September 23, 2020
Unfortunately, business closings are occurring all across the country post riot/COVID 2020. According to CNBC reporting of Yelp research data, 60% of businesses that had closed temporarily due to COVID have now made those closures permanent.
Riots: The Cost That Keeps On Rising
According to Axios, the damage caused by this year’s riots breaks records. With more than $1B in paid insurance claims, the damage from riots and looting across the United States following the death of George Floyd is estimated to be the costliest in insurance history – between $1 billion and $2 billion.
An often-overlooked cost of riots is the immediate funds needed to de-escalate violence and keep residents safe. Even during the early days of the protests and riots, Seattle Police Department reported that taxpayers would have expenses arising from police efforts, including $6.3 million in overtime, $67,478 on riot gear and $31,172 on pepper spray, flash bangs and other less than lethal weapons. That number today will likely make taxpayers reach for their smelling salts.
Tourism in Seattle
Many of these departing and failing businesses relied on tourists to stay open. Tourism plays a huge role in Seattle’s economy, with nearly 40 million tourists visiting annually pre-COVID, and more than 20 million overnight visitors, likely business travelers.
In 2019, more than 165,000 Seattle-area jobs were supported by the tourism industry, generating direct income of $5.7 billion. These tourism industry jobs represent 3.5% of all jobs in the state, and the economic activity supported by visitors supports a total of 5.1 percent of all jobs in Washington.
Many of these departing and failing Seattle businesses relied on tourists to stay open.
But once the tourists again have the chance to visit Seattle, will they? Most Americans, hearing of the violence and viewing it nightly on their television news, will not choose to go somewhere they are not safe. “Defunding” the police, at least in the short run, is proving to lessen the safety of the citizens and visitors of a city.
And despite calls on the city council to adequately finance the police to keep the downtown area safe, the council continues to go forward with its plans to “defund.” On September 22, Twitter user Jon Huntley (@renwa82), a self-described political moderate, tweeted:
“I’m staying out of any city that doesn’t have an adequate police force. I imagine crime is going to get more frequent and bold. This will hurt Seattle’s economy by way of less tourism and by businesses leaving Seattle because it’s not safe to operate there.”
BREAKING: Seattle City Council overrides Mayor’s veto of cuts to police budget, the cuts to the Seattle Police Department can proceed. – KCPQ
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) September 23, 2020
While protestors and rioters can choose to go home, or on to the next protest, Seattle businesses are left to deal with the remnants of violence, and they continue to pay.
Is Seattle Safe to Visit Today?
If potential tourists are interested in visiting Seattle, and want to know what it looks like today, one resident took to the streets to show folks the truth.
The long-reaching impact of the riots and unsafe downtown area will be felt for years to come.
But it’s not just Seattle:
August 25, 2020 – PORTLAND, OR – At the risk of sounding redundant, a riot was declared in Portland on the evening of August 24th.
After 10:00 p.m. Monday night, rioters marched from Arbor Lodge Park to the Portland Police Association headquarters and began spray-painting and causing damage to the building.
Police arrived quickly and declared a riot as the smoke from a fire set began rising in the front of the building. A second fire had also been set to the rear of the building.
— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) August 25, 2020
Both were extinguished before they were able to cause further damage.
Arrests were made and tear gas was deployed to disburse the unlawful gathering.
During the march, rioters chanted the name of Jacob Blake, the man who was shot by police in Wisconsin Sunday. As in many other frivolous riots in Portland, the case involving Blake happened nearly 2,000 miles away from Portland and have zero to do with Portland Police.
Furthermore, Portlanders are seemingly up-in-arms over a suspect shot by police that has a history pulling guns out on people, committing sexual assault, domestic violence – and assaulting police officers.
Ya boy Jacob Blake!! Domestic abuser and sex offender!! Known for pulling guns on people and living a life of crime.
This is who yall crying about!! Ok… pic.twitter.com/ddygEEEpsD
— Brandon Tatum (@TheOfficerTatum) August 24, 2020
Terrorists in Portland bragged about assaulting police officers, as seen in this tweet:
In Portland a protestor was successfully de-arrested while a cop got pepper sprayed. It may be beautiful, but please don’t post video ??
— PNW Youth Liberation Front (@PNWYLF) August 25, 2020
Commotion took over the streets again as people disbursed the area. A reporter on scene said that she saw a body loaded into an ambulance from the ground.
She was unable to tell if it was an officer or rioter and so far there has been no update as to that information.
A look at the people in front of the PPA. Cars are blocking N Lombard. pic.twitter.com/LiQeG0bvYz
— Allison Mechanic (@AlliMechanic_TV) August 25, 2020
Even the media couldn’t hold in their bias during this riot and were actively harassing the police.
Members of the press are harassing police officers in Portland. These people are not on your side. pic.twitter.com/M7xnIetqVO
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) August 25, 2020
The rioters chanted:
“What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now. If we don’t get it, burn it down.”
Antifa in Portland: "What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now. If we don't get it, burn it down."
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) August 25, 2020
The chaos that ensued on the evening of the 24th marked the 89th night of some form of protesting or riot within Portland. Aside from the reported cases of arson and general vandalism against the police union building, the total damage done from the evening is not yet clear.
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Meanwhile, businesses have started to leave Portland due to the increased and unwavering lawlessness in the city.
The businesses leaving aren’t just your local mom ‘n pop joints either – these are bonafide businesses like Google, Microsoft, Banana Republic, AirB&B, Saucebox and Daimler Chrysler.
— KOIN News (@KOINNews) August 24, 2020
Greg Goodman, the co-president of the Downtown Development Group, wrote a letter to Mayor Ted Wheeler explaining what the unchecked riots is doing to Portland economically.
According to Goodman, this madness is creating an exodus the likes of which he’s never seen:
“The number is like nothing I have seen in 42 years of doing business in downtown.”
Why would a new crowd of businesses show up? Who would wanna set up shop in Portland when the potential to loosing their shop to the next mass riot is a risk? It’s already hard enough being a small business owners as is so why go to a place that has more risk?
— Joe B ?? (@burritobritoboy) August 25, 2020
Of course, who could blame any business wanting to leave Portland?
It doesn’t even take a incident within the city of Portland for people to begin rioting and destroying businesses and attacking police officers that have zero to do with the source of the mob’s ire.
Goodman further stated that you could contact just about anyone that deals in commercial property in Portland and they’ll tell you that people want out of the city when it pertains to their business:
“The list goes on and on. If you know a retail or office broker, give them a call and ask them how many clients they have are trying to leave.”
While the letter penned to Mayor Wheeler didn’t specifically say that Black Lives Matter was to blame for the exodus of businesses, Goodman did write that is “does have most everything to do with the lawlessness you are endorsing downtown.”
Linneas Boland-Godbey, a local who happens to be a protester, is one who also decries the destruction happening in the city by the hands of the rioters present night after night:
“I understand and I see the frustration because I’m just like, it’s like, burning a mattress for me or a dumpster, doesn’t necessarily help my community. And that’s why I’m out here being, like, can we do a different form of protest besides burning down something?”
Goodman’s letter to the mayor claimed that he was neglecting his duties to keep the city in order:
“You aren’t sweeping the streets, needles are all over the place, garbage cans are broken and left open, glass from car windows that have been broken out is all over the streets, parks are strewn with litter (their fountains turned off) weeds are taller than the plants in the planter boxes, graffiti is on sculptures, etc.”
“You are willfully neglecting your duties as elected officials to keep our city safe and clean.”
And yet, the only thing Mayor Wheeler can address is…The Proud Boys?
“I vehemently oppose what the Proud Boys and those associated with them stand for, and I will not tolerate hate speech and the damage it does in our city.”
While some may not agree with the group’s political stance – the group hasn’t been responsible for any of the damage to property or looting in the city. No one has had to file an insurance claim for their business or personal property because they heard an opinion they don’t like.
When will this madness cease?
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