PORTLAND, OR—Businesses are moving out of downtown Portland as daily protests have led to loss of revenue and extensive property damage.

There have been 84 consecutive nights of protests in downtown Portland, specifically the Hatfield Courthouse. On August 18, protesters set fire to the inside of the Multnomah Building, a county government building, in a demonstration that was declared a riot by the Portland Police Department.

Most downtown businesses are boarded up protectively with plywood and marked with graffiti. According to a survey by the Portland Business Alliance (PBA), the protests, along with the coronavirus pandemic, were found to have caused several million dollars in damage or lost revenue. One Portland-based company which was not named reported losses of over $20 million; and the number is still growing.

President and CEO of the PBA commented on the survey, “Businesses are leaving.”

Standard Insurance is headquartered in downtown Portland at The Standard Insurance Center on 900 SW 5th Avenue. The 27-story building has been largely evacuated in response to COVID-19 and “current disruptions and unsafe conditions in the neighborhood,” said the company’s senior spokesperson, Bob Speltz, “Our downtown properties have sustained significant vandalism and a number of employees and contractors have been assaulted in recent months.” 

A majority of the 2,100 employees have moved to Standard’s Hillsboro Campus, just outside the city. The amount of employees remaining in the downtown location is unknown, but a majority of the company’s workers were already working from home due to the pandemic.

Speltz said the company is committed to the downtown core, but is not sure how many workers will return post-pandemic. 

Representatives of the Subway franchise voiced concern for the safety of employees in downtown locations. In an interview with KATU, Stacy Gibson, a franchise owner, stated they hired extra people in efforts to keep the staff safe as many are nervous during late-night shifts.

We work very hard to build our businesses and be successful and employ people, and when they come in and destroy it by breaking the window and everything else, we’re the ones who have to pay for that,” said Gibson. Gibson noted she supports protests saying, “We just need to find some sort of a peaceful resolution and resolve it so we can all open back up and just deal with the COVID situation.”

On Friday, August 14, OCHIN, a national health nonprofit based in downtown Portland, announced the selling of its 40,200 square-foot headquarters at 1881 SW Naito Parkway. The property, which was bought for $14 in 2017, will go on the market on August 27. OCHIN spokesperson Jennifer Stoll said the decision to sell the building is unrelated to the protests. 

Jonathan Bach, a commercial real estate reporter for the Portland Business Journal who has been observing the pandemic’s impact on downtown office spaces, said he has not observed a “mass exodus” from the area in response to protests. He implied that this status could change. 

Since last month, businesses have voiced distress over losing business amidst protests.

There have also been a heightened number of robberies in the area, which police have been slower to respond to as they designate large groups of officers to the management of protests. 

In late May, robbers stole nearly $1 million-worth of jewelry from Kassab Jewelers on Southwest Broadway and Alder. Rana Kassab, president of Kassab Jewelers, said, “Seeing something of such beauty and hard work and years and years and years of blood, sweat and tears destroyed in a matter of an hour and fifteen minutes was incredibly heartbreaking.” 

There has also been a marijuana robbery spree, affecting multiple dispensaries throughout downtown. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which oversees recreational cannabis, says 60 weed stores have reported lost product over the past month. Shops reported $135,000 in stolen product in June and 47 break-ins in May. Many of the stores have been hit multiple times since May 30, when the first break-in was recorded; four individuals stole around $16,000 worth of products.