Strolling through Deep Ellum and downtown Dallas on Election Day, there’s nary a 7-Eleven or CVS that isn’t shrouded in plywood. Big banks and small businesses, too, are making their Election Day preparations. In light of warnings from the FBI’s Dallas field office of possible unrest, many are taking extra precautions. Especially after a violent first weekend of protests left glass splayed across storefronts.
“I don’t honestly think we’re gonna have problems but I’d rather be on the side of precaution than find myself flat-footed,” says Matt Soness, owner of Flying Horse Cafe at the Magnolia Hotel downtown. He remembers when the cafe’s windows were broken in May after protests over police brutality turned violent. For him, it makes more sense to pay 75 bucks to board up his corner cafe now rather than $10,000 to replace shattered glass later, for a second time this year.
“They weren’t protestors, they were opportunists… I was down here, it was high school kids who came down here,” says Soness. “I hate it, I never thought it’d happen here.”
He along with fellow business owners in much of downtown feel the same way. If they haven’t boarded up yet, some may soon slap on the plywood. Soness and others, like Press Box Grill owner Tom Melesky, don’t anticipate too much action tonight if at all, pointing out that election will not likely be called. Still Melesky says his landlord suggested boarding up, so they did so “out of an abundance of caution” and it only took about three hours.
Press Box general manager Chris O’Neill adds that the sports restaurant and bar was lucky back in the spring—no one was hurt, there was some graffiti. “I hope we laugh and nothing happens,” he says.
Elsewhere downtown, museums haven’t applied any plywood, neither has the Adolphus Hotel nor the Architecture and Design Exchange, which was damaged and looted over the summer. Likewise, the AT&T Discovery District appeared to operating per usual, with people bustling about the plaza on an Election Day afternoon. The AT&T Experience Store, however, was boarded up. Though not affixed to windows yet, plywood peppered downtown sidewalks waiting to shield windows eventually.
Soness of Flying Horse Cafe says The Joule doesn’t plan on boarding up but has hired extra security. Joule employees wouldn’t confirm or deny any increased security, but one valet did say that in terms of being prepared “all the businesses are—it’s crazy we have to prepare like this for an election.” Soness shared a similar sense of disbelief: “This is Third World shit.”
In Deep Ellum, which also saw a lot of damage in the spring, several businesses kept their original plywood protection in place for most of the year. Others, like Deep Sushi on Elm Street, installed wood panels earlier Tuesday morning. “Yeah, obviously because of the election and we heard something might happen,” says a manager on duty. “Better to be prepared. Last time we didn’t board up and we ended up having half of our glass was crushed.”
Nobody got in further because of the restaurant’s internal floor-to-ceiling gate. “Eighty percent of the businesses [in Deep Ellum] are talking about being careful,” she says.
On Premise, Harlowe, The Nines—all sported wood paneling over windows. It didn’t appear 80 percent of Deep Ellum were preparing for the worst, but it’s early yet.
The Dallas Police Department wouldn’t say whether they expected any forthcoming unrest, but shared the following statement:
“The Dallas Police Department is committed to ensuring the safety of our community during this election season. Therefore, we have plans to have adequate staff leading up to Election Day and the days following November 3. In conjunction with our local, state, and federal partners, operational plans have been developed that address supporting election site security, maintaining the ability of individuals to access polling locations, and providing a safe environment for individuals desiring to exercise their First Amendment Right to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech. Additionally, the department is taking the steps necessary to maintain the continuity of Patrol operations, such as answering calls for police service and crime prevention.”
Natalie Gempel contributed to this report.