Sounds of hammers and buzz saws filled downtown Wilmington on Monday as restaurants and businesses began the road to recovery following a weekend of civil unrest.
Multiple businesses along Market Street and neighboring streets experienced damage to storefront property and looting on Saturday, May 30, as peaceful protests in the city turned violently destructive.
In Rodney Square, the protest began at 11 a.m., calling for the justice of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, a black man, died after being arrested by Minneapolis police on May 25. Video footage shows a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for about eight minutes during the arrest.
Protestors marched peacefully across the city, but as evening fell, a crowd converged on Market Street and began breaking glass windows and looting businesses.
The weekend signaled the final days of Delaware’s stay-at-home order as restaurants and shops prepared for phase one of COVID-19 recovery this week. Restaurants were especially excited to reopen their dining rooms to patrons and to return to some form of normalcy.
Scott Stein, co-owner of Bardea Food + Drink, located at 620 N. Market St., was in the restaurant with limited staff on Saturday when protestors began smashing multiple windows in front.
By early Sunday, his restaurant had boarded the broken windows.
Bardea had planned to reopen for dining on June 3, but as of Monday, June 1, Stein was still debating what the proper steps should be and was waiting for additional guidance from the city of Wilmington.
He says they’ve waited so long to open back up and received plenty of reservations for the weekend, but this is a sensitive time for the city and the nation.
“There’s a lot of bigger issues,” he says.
Bryan and Andrea Sikora’s La Fia Bistro and Merchant Bar, both located at 5th and Market streets, also had windows broken and were looted. Multiple liquor bottles were taken from Merchant Bar’s shelves and La Fia had computer systems’ wires pulled and potted plants smashed. Those, too, were boarded up early Sunday, and Andrea says they will quickly assess more of the damage and hopefully replace the windows in time for La Fia’s reopening this weekend. (The Sikoras have no plans to make a social media announcement of the reopening but will instead see if people reserve and visit on their own.)
“It seems kind of inappropriate [to make a statement],” she says.
The Sikoras do not plan to open Merchant Bar until all restrictions are lifted.
Andrea says she hopes people will continue to support local businesses and is thankful for the support from the city of Wilmington and Downtown Visions and help with the cleanup.
However, compounding the reopening restrictions due to COVID-19 with recovery from the stores’ damages, she says they’re buckling up for a long road ahead.
“I think it’s going to be a long time before we break even,” she says.
Brew HaHa! posted on Instagram that its Delaware Avenue café sustained some exterior damage, but that their pain paled in comparison to what others in the community are feeling.
“Shattered glass [is] easy to fix,” the café posted. “Shattered communities take much more.”
View this post on Instagram
Since 1996 we’ve been brewing coffee here in the heart of downtown Wilmington. We love the people in this city and acknowledge the pain so many of us are feeling. The exterior of our Delaware Avenue Cafe was damaged but that’s just shattered glass which is easy to fix, shattered communities take much more. We are grateful for a community that is listening and can come together during times of crisis. Our Delaware Avenue Cafe is closed today but we’ll be back tomorrow. ⠀ .⠀ We’re open at three cafes today for online ordering curbside pick-up or delivery. Concord Gallery & Pike Creek Cafes open from 8 am – 1 pm and Greenville Cafe from 9 am – 4 pm.⠀ .⠀ These are incredibly challenging times and we will continue to support those who are demanding justice.⠀
The café will reopen this week.
Stein says he’s received an outpouring of support from the community, customers and the organizers of Saturday’s protest asking how they could help the cleanup as they never wanted to see their event turn violent.
“It’s just blown me away,” he says, his voice shaky from the emotional weekend. “Stuff breaks, that can be replaced,” he added.