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Some downtown Spokane businesses take extra precautions ahead of Sunday protest

UPDATED: Fri., June 5, 2020

The Carhart store on Main is seen boarded up on June 1, 2020 following a night of unrest and riot activity in downtown Spokane. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
The Carhart store on Main is seen boarded up on June 1, 2020 following a night of unrest and riot activity in downtown Spokane. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

At 5 p.m. Friday, a maintenance worker for Nike was on a ladder, putting up a wooden frame on the windows of the store on Howard Street. The storefront had already been boarded, matching Nordstrom, Lush, Williams-Sonoma, Lululemon, Apple, Carhartt and Bistango Martini Lounge, all in preparation for the planned downtown protest Sunday.

Mark Richard, Downtown Spokane Partnership president, said he recommended businesses with storefronts do this. He also suggested removing valuables from stores, including cash from registers – potentially even putting the empty register near the front of the store as a way to indicate there is nothing valuable in the store. He sought advisement from the police, and downtown Lt. Steve Braun told him it would be a good idea for business to close at 4 p.m. Sunday.

“We are advising them to strongly consider that,” Richard said. “If that’s coming from the police department, I think we have a responsibility to share that it’s recommended.”

Richard is encouraging business that have security videos to make sure the cameras are active.

After several hours of a mostly peaceful protest downtown last Sunday, looting broke out at the Nike Factory Store, 618 W. Main Ave., sparking numerous confrontations between police and protesters and the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.

River Park Square will be closed all Sunday, said Bryn West, River Park Square vice president.

“We just need to be cautious going into Sunday and have encouraged our storefront merchants that can to board their windows just so they don’t sustain any losses,” West said. “Beyond that, we’re just hopeful that it stays a peaceful rally and that those people’s voices are heard.”

Centennial Properties is also advising its tenants to board up their buildings, operations director Kyle Pullen said. Centennial Properties is a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review. Centennial Properties also will staff the buildings with security officers, as well as hiring a third-party security.

“It’s really just preventative measures of trying to deter people from the property like, ‘Hey, look, we have somebody here that’s going to report something right away,’ ” Pullen said.

Reema Schaver, Bistango owner and operator, said, “Everybody was boarding up around me, and I just felt like it was the best thing I needed to do for my business, just to protect it.”

Schaver had been preparing to reopen when the protests happened last Sunday.

“I had literally had a staff meeting and had everything in place,” Shaver said. “I went over the new precautions and all the new laws from the health department and demonstrated the PPE, and the schedule was out.”

She is hoping to reopen Bistango on Wednesday or Thursday, once she can have someone take the boards down.

Mark Starr, David’s Pizza owner, said the protest last Sunday was perfect, but he takes issue with what happened after it.

“Who wants to go downtown knowing what’s about to take place?” Starr said. “All you need to do is look at the plywood on the windows to know that you’re entering a dangerous zone.”

Starr said that coronavirus already has been so tough on the businesses, and now this is making things more difficult for businesses downtown.

“I always want to put a positive spin on things, I always do,” Starr said. “Because we need to be positive, we need to be upbeat, and we need to carry that image. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to do so.”

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