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Empty Streets New Threat to Businesses in Baltimore

Neal’s Hair Studio, a Baltimore salon Joe Pitta and his partner have run for 25 years, opened as scheduled on Wednesday, but some customers are canceling or rescheduling their appointments. “One guy called and said, ‘Frankly, I’m afraid to come down,’ ” Mr. Pitta said

BALTIMORE — Baltimore’s nighttime economy has gone dark.

The streets were quieter on Wednesday, and residents and volunteers have started repairing the damage to their neighborhoods resulting from the demonstrations and rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray, a black man who died after being severely injured while in police custody.

But for many local business owners, the worst hit from this week’s unrest is still to come. On Tuesday night, the city began the first of what officials say will be a seven-day curfew, with all residents required to stay off the streets from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

For restaurants, bars, taxicabs and others that rely on nighttime customers, it is a potential economic disaster.

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“In this industry, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid,” said Jane Grimes, the manager of the Mt. Vernon Stable & Saloon, a neighborhood pub that typically keeps its kitchen open until midnight or later. “Thursday, Friday, Saturday; those are the nights when we’re usually the busiest.”

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PLAY VIDEO|3:09 Cleaning Up Baltimore Cleaning Up Baltimore After a night of violent clashes with the police, protests, vandalism and arson, Baltimore residents aim to put their city back together. By A.J. Chavar on Publish Date April 28, 2015.

Sondra Goad and Bob Persaud, the owners of the hospitality company Belvedere & Co., expect their small business to lose at least $100,000 if the curfew continues for the entire seven days scheduled. The company, which operates an events business and two bars, has already had to cancel three evening wedding receptions scheduled for this weekend.

“The families were just devastated,” Ms. Goad said. “There’s the ripple effect to all of this. We had to stop the flowers, stop the cake, stop the hotel shuttles. We canceled our food order and our liquor order, and our staff are losing out on their hours and wages.”

Emma McIntosh, a bartender at one of Belvedere’s properties, the Owl Bar, said she was braced for a light paycheck this week. On Tuesday, the first night of the curfew, patrons had to depart five hours before the bar’s usual closing time.

“People were extra generous with their tips, because they understood we weren’t making much money that night,” she said.

Advertisement Liam Flynn, the owner of an Irish bar, is circulating a petition asking Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, to lift the curfew. He thinks its economic toll will far exceed the cost of the property damage caused by the rioting.

“This is hitting during the worst month of the year,” he said, citing annual April scourges like taxes, license renewals and city inspections. Many of his workers have their next month’s rent payments due in just a few days.

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PHOTOGRAPHS Voices From the Streets of Baltimore

The day after chaos erupted across Baltimore, people who were assembled near a looted CVS drugstore discussed the violence.

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He thinks the city overreacted in ordering such a lengthy nighttime shutdown. “The vandalism happened for two nights mainly, but the rest of us have to suffer for the whole week?” he said. The physical devastation from this week’s unrest has also left a mark on some businesses. Neal’s, a hair salon Joe Pitta and his partner, Neal Foore, have run for 25 years, is operating out of a boarded-up storefront with a “Yes We’re Open” sign taped up over the plywood. Thieves broke in early Tuesday morning, shattering the glass on the front door and stealing the cash box.

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The salon opened as scheduled on Wednesday, but some customers were canceling or rescheduling their appointments. “One guy called and said, ‘Frankly, I’m afraid to come down,’ ” Mr. Pitta said.

His biggest concern, Mr. Pitta said, is the uncertainty over what happens next.

The Police Department is scheduled to finish its investigation into Mr. Gray’s death by Friday and turn its findings over to the state’s attorney for Baltimore. Officials have not commented on whether those findings will be released, but Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, has warned of “some concerns going forward with possible flash points for Friday and Saturday.”

One of the more tense areas of the city is the Mondawmin neighborhood where Mr. Gray’s funeral was held. A CVS business there was set on fire on Monday and a number of the surrounding shops were looted. Many remained closed on Wednesday. Several businesses, including a ravaged and boarded-up check cashing shop, had clusters of police officers guarding them, steps away from crowds of demonstrators waving placards and chanting.

In Mondawmin and throughout the city, some business owners say they empathize with the protesters. Half a block from the burned-out CVS, Durwood Bush Sr., the owner of the D&D Variety Store, has two signs posted on his door. One is an interdenominational call for peace, signed by two dozen clerical leaders in Baltimore. Alongside it is a “rules of engagement” list, which includes the stipulation: “black eyes — no dead bodies.”

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Timeline: Mapping the Clashes Between Baltimore Police and Protesters

Mr. Bush said he was not surprised when the neighborhood’s frustrations boiled over violently.

“It’s unnecessary, this destruction, this rioting, but we could see this stuff coming,” he said. He speaks from experience: Mr. Bush said he had spent 22 years in prison. After his release in 2004, he opened his shop and began using it as a base of operations for his Dare to be Different Ministry, which works toward helping former offenders reintegrate with the community.

Surrounded by the remains of the week’s devastation, Mr. Bush said he is confident his shop will withstand whatever comes next. “The community takes care of us,” he said. “Since some foolish people have taken away the CVS and some of the grocery stores, we might even do a lot more business.”

Some business owners are battening down the hatches as they wait for the next few days to unfold. Many of the shops around Neal’s hair salon have already boarded up their windows as a deterrent.

One of the holdouts is Krysti Lyn, who opened her design studio four years ago in a space that had been vacant and derelict. She lives above the shop with her teenage daughter. On Monday night, they watched as looters moved down their street, breaking windows and snatching goods from her neighbors’ shops.

“I’m heartbroken and saddened for all of us,” she said. “For the kids who feel they need to act out, the shop owners, the police — all of us are victims in this.”

She is determined to keep her shop’s large glass window exposed and lit. “I’m not boarding up,” she said. “That’s not the face I want to show to the community, and I don’t want my daughter to feel caged in by this situation.”

She, too, is worried about what will happen when prosecutors decide whether or not to charge the officers involved in Mr. Gray’s death, but she is hopeful that Baltimore’s community has hit a turning point.

“I’m going to stand on faith,” she said. “We’re all in this together. I’m trusting that people will realize we’re all neighbors, and there’s no reason to break our windows.”

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