Malls at the Baltimore harbor gave tenants the go-ahead to open their stores today, but that doesn’t mean employees or customers showed up.
After days of riots in Baltimore, retail “is definitely going to be negatively affected,” said Mike Evitts, vice president of the Downtown Baltimore Partnership. “Businesses are open. There’s an abundance of law enforcement. But people are staying away — in terms of the customer base. We’re developing a marketing campaign to help patronage return.”
Members of the National Guard standing in line today in front of the Inner Harbor couldn’t be good for business. The city has been under siege since last Thursday when 25-year-old Freddie Gray, a suspect in police custody, died of severe spinal cord injuries.
Saturday started with mostly peaceful protests in West Baltimore, but turned violent when some demonstrators blocked traffic and broke car windows.
Following Gray’s funeral on Monday through early Tuesday morning, rioters burned buildings, looted businesses and beat civilians. Police said a curfew will be in effect from 10 p.m. Tuesday through 5 a.m. May 4, unless renewed or rescinded by order of the mayor.
Most of the violence took place in the Northwest part of the city, which is considered a distressed area. “The arrests happened in West Baltimore,” Evitts said.
Two Inner Harbor malls — the Light Street Pavilion and Pratt Street Pavilion — along with Harborplace and The Gallery, “were advised to close early on Saturday and close early again on Monday,” Evitts said. One employee of the Pavilion properties, where H&M and Urban Outfitters are located, described it as a “lockdown.”
On Saturday, a looter broke an outer window of the Michael Kors store at The Gallery as terrified shoppers ran from the store, Evitts said, adding, “It wasn’t an inner window. The store wasn’t breached.”
Police on Monday tweeted, “We continue to receive reports of criminals looting at Mondawmin Mall. We have reports of several people inside Mondawmin Mall looting and destroying property.”
Mondawmin Mall reportedly sustained the most damage during the riots. The mall, which features stores such as Forever 21, Ashley Stewart, Claire’s, Marshalls, Ross and Target, was forced to close early on Monday. The mall’s Web site said it was closed Tuesday.
“We are actively monitoring the situation,” a Target spokesman said.
At Harbor East, 12-square blocks of shopping, dining and entertainment located east of the Inner Harbor, national retailers such as Anthropologie and J. Crew were closed on Tuesday. “We’re closing early at 8 p.m. because of the curfew,” said an Anthropologie sales associate. “We want to make sure our employees are safe.”
“Yesterday we closed early so that everybody could get home,” said George Hopp, owner of Handbags in the City at Harbor East. “Today, everything’s pretty much back to normal. The National Guard is here. They got here this morning.”
If there ever were a sign that things weren’t normal, it had to be Major League Baseball’s announcement that in light of the ongoing circumstances in Baltimore, Wednesday’s game at 7:05 p.m. was moved to 2:05 p.m. “It was determined that the game should be played without fan admittance in order to minimize safety concerns,” the organization said.
“Yesterday’s riot was a lot of high school kids,” Evitts said. “You could see a lot of them in school uniforms. They were responding to a call that came out over social media. It was disenfranchised kids looking to take advantage of a bad situation.”