Individuals who own businesses and property near the convention’s Pepsi Center location and other sites such as Civic Center Park, where many protesters plan to congregate, should check their insurance policies to see what they would cover – and what might come out of their own pockets.
Most business owner policies should cover damage caused by a “civil commotion,” said Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.
“It’s going to depend on the type of business, the type of coverage,” Walker said.
Large commercial policies will probably offer the most coverage, she added.
While riots and their potential damage aren’t a pleasant scenario to entertain, insurance industry experts recommend sorting out the details of an insurance policy beforehand rather than discovering a lack of coverage afterward.
“People really need to know what their individual policy says,” Walker said.
The most costly riots in history, from an insurance industry perspective, were 1992’s L.A. riots, which resulted in $775 million (that’s $1.2 billion in today’s dollars) in paid out insurance claims, Walker said.
The City and County of Denver isn’t taking any chances. It is paying $1.85 million for a $10 million insurance policy that will cover general liability as well as any worker’s compensation claims filed by police officers from other jurisdictions who will help out during the convention.
Although representatives from the Democratic National Convention’s host committee declined to say how much and what type of insurance the committee has acquired, Denver city officials have said the DNCC has $250 million worth of coverage, including property, accident and even event cancellation.
The Republican National Convention’s host committee was more forthcoming.
The committee has just over $100 million in insurance coverage that includes liability, auto, event, property and worker’s compensation insurance, said Teresa McFarland, communication director for the RNC host committee.
Business owners are on their own.
Holly Brooks, owner of Capitol Hill Books at the corner of East Colfax Avenue and Grant Street, just one block from Civic Center Park, said she asked her insurance agent to check what is covered under the store’s policy but isn’t expecting an encouraging answer.
"If my windows were to get broken, I’m sure it’s not covered. If business were interrupted, I’m sure that wouldn’t be covered," Brooks said.
But she’s hoping this year’s DNC will bring financial gain rather than loss, with tens of thousands of potential customers pouring into Denver and many passing by her store.
"I’d like to look on the optimistic side that the convention would bring us more business," Brooks said. "I’ll probably just cross my fingers."
But businesses might still be vulnerable even if no property damage occurs.
"Most of the riot and civil commotion coverage does have some loss-of-business coverage. The caveat there is that most of them don’t kick in until after 72 hours [of a business being shut down]," Walker said.
That could be a heavy blow for a restaurant that had stocked up on perishable goods in anticipation of hungry crowds only to be forced to shut down if peaceful protests turn chaotic.
Tom Messina, the owner of Tom’s Diner, also on Colfax, a few blocks from Civic Center, said he hasn’t given much thought to the possibility of riots, or any subsequent damage or loss of business.
"I’m a glass-half-full guy," Messina said. "I’m expecting it to be very busy that week and to make a lot of money."
Vehicle and homeowners who will have property near the convention festivities might also want to check in with their insurance agents.
If a driver manages to find a parking space in downtown Denver during the convention, and his or her car is destroyed in a riot, comprehensive auto insurance will cover the damage.
But, Walker cautions, comprehensive auto insurance is optional in Colorado.
Again, check your policy, she said.
She also has a warning for all the folks who are fleeing town the week of the convention and hoping to make a couple hundred or even thousand quick bucks by renting out their homes:
If your DNC guests do damage, it will be covered under a renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policy – but expect to pay higher premiums in the future, Walker said.