BID: Boarded up downtown DC businesses making their own decisions

A number of businesses in downtown D.C. are choosing to board up their glass storefronts. (WTOP/John Domen)

A lot of businesses in downtown D.C. have seen their glass windows hidden by giant sheets of plywood for months, and now some more businesses are also boarding things up as a precaution ahead of Election Day. But it’s not because of any imminent threat they’re being warned about.

“The city has indicated that they are not expecting to have any protest or violence or any kind of incidents in the city based on what they know at this point. At least that’s what they have told us,” said Leona Agouritis, the executive director of the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District.

That district stretches from 16th Street to Washington Circle in Northwest D.C., and includes businesses just north of Lafayette Square.

“They are not recommending that people board up based on the information they have right now,” she added.

But after widespread protests erupted over the summer, to go with a long list of incidents and disruptions over the years, Augouritis said some businesses may go ahead and board things up anyway.

“Even though the city has indicated that they do not recommend boarding up, people are making their own decisions,” she said. “In some cases, they are indeed boarding up and, in other cases, they have decided not to board up. It’s an individual decision.”

In June, more than 80 businesses saw their glass storefronts damaged, and 25 Golden Triangle businesses were looted. Augouritis said it’s possible more businesses may decide not to risk it in the coming days and board things up just to be safe, but that any safety measures businesses take will likely go beyond sheets of plywood.

“People have to, based on their knowledge and risk tolerance and their own emergency plan, should make their decision on their own,” she said. “Readiness actually is a really important thing for communities throughout the country to stress, and we stress that with our community as well.”

Augouritis added that because these businesses are “at such a key place in the nation’s capital,” they’ve developed plans over the years and what’s happening now is just owners executing those already formed plans.

But after the summer’s vandalism and looting, and with a massive drop in business as the COVID-19 pandemic kept downtown workers out of offices, more disruption is the last thing some of them need to deal with.

“This whole spring and summer, and now fall, and it’s looking like winter, has really dealt a blow to the whole country and to the whole world, and it has been hard for businesses during COVID and during some of the unrest this summer as well,” Agouritis said.

“It’s 2020,” Agouritis added, summing everything up.

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