NYC storefronts begin boarding up as virus empties streets

Biz advocates urge stores to keep up appearances

Workers board up the Time Square Sephora location (Credit: Liao Pan/China News Service via Getty Images)
Workers board up the Time Square Sephora location (Credit: Liao Pan/China News Service via Getty Images)

New York’s once-bustling shopping districts are starting to look like they’re bracing for a hurricane. Retailers are boarding up storefronts now that the virus pandemic has emptied the city’s streets.

Large sheets of plywood barricade the entrances to Sephora locations throughout the city. In Soho, the windows to the Louis Vuitton store on Greene Street have been covered by boards painted with the luxury brand’s signature yellow.

Storefronts started going dark early last week after Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the city’s bars and restaurants closed, with the exception of offering takeout services. Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the following days began curtailing the number of employees who could go to work, culminating in the virtual shutdown of the city over the weekend.

And while some essential shops like grocery stores and laundromats remain open, others are now battening down the hatches.

Mark Dicus, executive director of the Soho Broadway Initiative business improvement district, reached out to landlords and retailers last week urging them to consider alternatives to boarding up windows.

Owners worried about securing their businesses, he said, should first consider options like hiring security firms or keeping interior lights on.

“We’re encouraging property owners and retailers to keep those storefronts untouched and to keep the lights on at night,” Dicus told The Real Deal. “We want to maintain a sense of normalcy and make sure our neighborhoods are safe. We feel there are ways to take care of that without resorting to drastic measures like boarding up storefronts.”

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A representative for Sephora wrote via email that the company has closed all of its stores across the United States and Canada through April 3.

“In accordance with our protocols for temporary store closures, we have standardized precautions to protect our properties across North America,” the spokesperson wrote.

In the Meatpacking District, Sephora’s landlord, Aurora Capital Associates, worked with the neighoborhood’s business improvement district to hire an artist to paint over the boards after they went up.

Aurora principal Jared Epstein wrote on social media that his company won’t allow the coronavirus and the citywide shutdown to “create further gloom and doom at our properties.”

Contact Rich Bockmann at or 908-415-5229.

Read more about how coronavirus is impacting retailers