But on Wednesday night, a billboard in the center of pandemic-hit New York City will be dark for one minute at 9 pm, part of a coordinated effort by business groups to call attention to national efforts to secure insurance coverage for the corona virus.
“This is to symbolically demonstrate that insurance companies are turning out the lights on businesses,” John Houghtaling, general counsel for the Business Interference Group (BIG), told CNN Wednesday.
The group – a coalition of restaurant owners and other business owners – along with the Times Square Alliance and NYC Hospitality Alliance hopes to draw attention to businesses that have been denied insurance coverage for payroll and other losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Business leaders and leaders in the BES coalition have also filed lawsuits seeking payments based on so-called business disruption insurance policies.
“Insurance companies across the country have denied coverage,” Houghtaling said. “[Claims] have been uniformly rejected regardless of the language of policy – they just said they didn’t discuss it. “
After a one-minute blackout, local business leaders will join Whoopi Goldberg and others in a video message calling on the federal government and insurance companies to support the business.
President Donald Trump discussed the issue of business disruption insurance, including during the White House briefing in April.
“You have people who have never asked for business interruption insurance (payments) and they have paid a lot of money for years to get the privilege of having it,” he said at the time. “And when they finally needed it, the insurance company said ‘we will not give it.’ We cannot allow that to happen. “
Pandemics ‘cannot be insured’
But the insurance industry believes that business disruption policies have relatively narrow functions.
“The position of the insurance industry is that business disruption insurance policies are triggered by direct physical damage,” Michael Barry, a spokesman for the industry-funded Insurance Information Institute, told CNN Wednesday.
“The big picture is that a global pandemic can hardly be insured, because you make everyone suffer losses at the same time.”
Times Square going dark is a rare event, which is expected by the organizers to provide drama according to their request. But Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, said the move was not entirely without precedence.
Amid high crime rates in the 1980s, a proposal to rebuild the city’s theater district called for a rebranding of Times Square, including the construction of new tall buildings without the signature of Times Square. To protest the action, said Tompkins, local leaders turned off incandescent indicators in the district.
“That’s a very different version of ‘don’t let the lights go out,'” he said.
Civil leaders lobbied to pass laws requiring animated signs to be installed and illuminated in every building in Times Square, Tompkins said.
Asked whether Wednesday night protests would collide with the zoning law, Tompkins laughed.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “I think this will be tolerated for the greater good.”
Maegan Vazquez from CNN contributed to this report.
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