Some downtown businesses take precautions ahead of election results

DSW DESIGNER SHOE WAREHOUSE in the Providence Place mall was the only store to at the mall to have boarded up windows Tuesday, along with a handful of downtown businesses. / PBN PHOTO / ALEXA GAGOSZ

PROVIDENCE Months after a night of violent protests damaged some downtown businesses, a few companies were again taking precautions in anticipation of potential fallout from the Nov. 3 election.

Citizens Bank and Santander Bank both boarded up downtown branches as part of company decisions to shore up storefronts in major cities across the country as a precaution, according to spokespeople for each bank. Neither would comment on how long they planned to keep branches boarded, or whether any other Rhode Island locations were being similarly shuttered.

The street-side entrance of DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse at the Providence Place mall was boarded, while neighboring restaurants such as The Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s were setting up for outdoor dining on Tuesday morning.

Mall management did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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The decision comes amid national unrest and threats of rioting over the results of the impending presidential election. That a host of downtown businesses, including those in the Providence Place Mall, were damaged by riots that broke out in June has heightened awareness and caution for some.

Still, many businesses remained open and unboarded on Tuesday.

Joseph R. Paolino Jr., owner of Paolino Properties, which owns several downtown buildings, said he felt assured after talking with city and state police about protections put in place, and was encouraging his corporate tenants against boarding up for that reason. However, Paolino had also upped the private security presence at his buildings through the end of the week.

Bob Burke, owner of Pot au Feu, echoed Paolino’s confidence. Unlike the events in June, which took much of the community by surprise, business owners and police were prepared this time around, he said.

Except for that one night of violent rioting and looting, the many protests that have swept through downtown this year have been largely peaceful, said Bradly VanDerStad, president of the newly formed Downtown Hospitality Group.

VanDerStad, who also runs Providence Tour Co. but does not have his own storefront in downtown, acknowledged that businesses owners were more skittish, and “for good reason.” However, he worried that boarding up sends a message that Providence is unsafe, ultimately hurting the business community.

“It does us better to anticipate a peaceful transition versus getting everyone worked up and afraid of what could be a nonevent,” VanDerStad said.

Rick Simone, executive director of the Federal Hill Commerce Association, also said boarding up was “overzealous” and “unnecessary,” given security plans and the state’s political climate. Simone did not know of any Federal Hill stores or members of his other business group, the Ocean State Coalition, that were shuttering ahead of the election.

CVS Health Corp. was also boarding up storefronts in certain cities, though there were no plans to do so in Providence, according to Amy Thibault, a company spokeswoman.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Reporter Alexa Gagosz contributed to this story.

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