Times Square Billboards Will Go Dark on Wednesday in Support of Restaurants, Hospitality Businesses, and Non-Profits

Watchfire Signs

Times Square will be noticeably darker for one minute this Wednesday evening at 9pm EDT. The iconic digital billboards will go dark to alert the nation to the very real prospect that hundreds of thousands of American restaurants, non-profits, and retailers – employing millions – are in danger of going dark because existing federal assistance programs are not achieving intended goal.

A group of select Times Square billboard companies, the Times Square Alliance, the New York Hospitality Group, and the Business Interruption Group (BIG), comprised of leading restauranteurs and non-profits, will stage the dark-out to shine the light on the need for federal support and fairness from insurance companies for business interruption coverage.

“In both the media and our public consciousness, an empty Times Square has become emblematic for how swiftly and severely the social, cultural, and commercial activity of not only our city, but also the main streets across this country have ground to a halt amidst this global pandemic,” said Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance.

He continued, “Similarly, the images Times Square sends around the world send signals of what could come next – for better or for worse. It is no secret that this pandemic has created unprecedented vulnerabilities for restaurants, retailers and small business entrepreneurs, deepening existing inequities not only in New York but across the country. The black-out action is both a caution and a call to action to ensure that steps are taken to ensure that the lights don’t go dark for millions.”

John Houghtaling, co-founder of BIG and a leading advocate for fairness from the insurance industry, noted, “Business interruption insurance claims being wrongfully denied. That is crippling the essential hospitality businesses that drive tourism and are woven into the fabric of our cities. The loss of revenue without the opportunity to recover lost funds robs business owners of the capital necessary to re-open.”

Following the dramatic Times Square billboards blackout, a video will urge the insurance industry to honor business interruption claims and support legislation. The video features opinions from Whoopi Goldberg, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Chef Eric Ripert of famed restaurant Le Bernardin, Broadway actress and singer Liz Dutton and many others calling on insurance companies to “do the right thing.” Times Square contributes more than $100 billion in annual economic impact, 225,000 jobs (30% the size of the entire airline industry), and more than $50 billion in direct spending. Times Square represents the center of entertainment, media, fashion and hospitality in North America, drawing +60 million people to New York and approximately 130 million pedestrians annually. This economic impact, second only to Wall Street, is distinctly driven by thousands of businesses small and large, and the hundreds of thousands of people employed by them. Said Tompkins, “In solidarity with businesses suffering not only in Times Square, but also in town squares around the nation, we are pleased to work with the Business Interruption Group and other allies with this symbolic display.”

Andrew Ridgie, Executive Director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, which has emerged as a national voice highlighting the vulnerability of restaurants and retailers and the inadequacy of existing federal efforts, stated “This moment of darkness captures the severity of the moment our iconic community is facing. If financial support is not directed here, through both insurance companies living up to their commitments and federal government’s emergency assistance, our moment of darkness will last.”

The billboard blackout will be 46th Street to 48th Street on Broadway and the entire corner of 47th and 7th Avenue bracketing the center of the Times Square “Duffy Square”. Over 100 million LED pixels, each representing $1,000 dollars of annual economic impact from Times Square alone, will be momentarily turned off. Co-founder of BIG, and one of America’s most celebrated chefs, Eric Ripert added: “The Times Square installation sends a powerful message to the insurance industry. We expect the insurance industry to do the right thing. Businesses like mine in New York, and businesses large and small across America paid year after year for insurance to protect the livelihood of our business families and suppliers that are part of us. We are at a critical inflection point in which the insurance companies and the federal government can change the course of history, our citizen’s economic health and well-being on a grand scale.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder CEO and President of the Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance, who is featured in the demonstration states “Denying the Simon Wiesenthal Center the very protections we paid for, plain and simple literally halts our vital work of monitoring and combating the haters and educating millions in our Museum and through our films. As part of the Business Interruption Group we are standing up for thousands of other non-profits and American businesses small and large and their devoted staffs all grappling with the grim realities of COVID-19. We’re here to deliver a crystal-clear message to the insurance industry: do the right thing. We’re not asking for a handout – we’re demanding that insurance companies fulfill their obligations. Every sector of our economy and communities are at stake. #DontGoDark – Don’t turn your back on these American companies who loyally paid their premiums and without the Insurance companies living up to their obligations could lead to incalculable losses of jobs and the specter of permanent damage to our society.”

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