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Matrice Davis, 711 worker at the corner of Charles and Saratoga, placing closed signs on the front entrance that was busted open Monday during the looting. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Harmed by riots, small businesses now face a curfew

Casey Yang, owner of Coffee-Land, usually closes his shop downtown at about 5 p.m. and is out the door about 15 minutes later. But on Monday, there were a few late sandwich orders that kept the store open longer and delayed his going home.

As he was preparing to leave, he noticed a group of teenagers gathering in front of his store on Charles Street downtown. Yang, 54, felt the situation was dangerous so he locked his door and hid in a corner. But the group of about 20 teenagers saw him, smashed the glass door, demanded money, ransacked the store, hit him in the head with a container and stole his briefcase.

Despite the ordeal, he plans to open his doors again on Wednesday and dismissed the idea of relocating the shop.

“We have to keep [the] business here. We have no choice,” Yang said.

Small businesses throughout the city, even those that haven’t been directly impacted by the riots, are hurting as a result of the destruction that started on Saturday and erupted into full scale riots on Monday. The violence came as an off shoot of anger over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries suffered while in the Baltimore Police Department’s custody.

In reaction to the riot, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake imposed a citywide curfew starting Tuesday night that’s scheduled to last a week. Under the curfew, all people, with few exceptions, must be off city streets between 10 p.m. and  5 a.m. That decision, to some business owners, seems like an overreaction that will hurt businesses already struggling in the aftermath of the past few days.

Liam Flynn, owner of Liam Flynn’s Ale House, is one of the small-business owners most upset with the decision. He created a petition on Change.org urging the mayor to reconsider the curfew. He said that he’s discussed with others in the hospitality industry about filing a class action lawsuit against the mayor if the petition is unsuccessful in having the curfew lifted.

“To put a curfew unilaterally across the city is ridiculous. It’s going to kill our business. It’s already affected for a couple of days just people being nervous about going out because of the media blowout ,” Flynn said.

The ale house is located on North Avenue, the same city street where much of the rioting occurred Monday, but more than a mile east of the riot’s epicenter at North and Pennsylvania avenues. Flynn said his bartender closed early on Monday night because of rumors that the riots were spreading, but when he got to the bar there were only a handful of teenagers in the area. Flynn spoke to them and they were just out searching for a friend they were concerned about.

“If we lose all our stuff we have insurance. That’s why we have insurance,” Flynn said. “We don’t have insurance for loss of revenue due to a curfew.”

Benn Ray, president of the Hampden Village Merchants Association and co-owner of Atomic Books, said the curfew will hurt various businesses throughout the city. Even though the Hampden neighborhood is isolated from many of the communities where violence has occurred his store has experienced a significant dip in business.

“What happened yesterday doesn’t help anyone, period. It doesn’t help the people who were lashing it out. It doesn’t help the protesters, who I see as a completely different issue from what happened yesterday,” Ray said. “It doesn’t help businesses. It doesn’t help Baltimore City. It doesn’t help anyone.”

About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.