Why Times Square Billboards Are Going Dark

Chefs, restaurateurs, and celebrities are part of a citywide effort to help save small businesses impacted by COVID-19. "It's going to be very emotional to see such a vibrant place empty and dark," said Eric Ripert.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has shut down restaurants, shops, and the entirety of Broadway, the bright lights that define New York City have continued to shine. Yet tonight at 9 p.m. EST, Times Square will go dark for one minute, representing the reality that America's small businesses will face if the federal government doesn't step in.

The blackout, part of the #DontGoDark campaign, is being staged by a group of Times Square billboard companies, the Times Square Alliance, the New York City Hospitality Alliance, and The Business Interruption Group (BIG), which is comprised of chefs, restaurateurs, and other small business owners. More than 100 million LED pixels, each representing $1,000 dollars of annual economic impact from Times Square alone, will be turned off. The blacked-out billboards span the center of Times Square, from 46th Street to 48th Street on Broadway and the entire corner of 47th and 7th Avenue.

Times Square Billboards Going Dark
Nicolas Economou / Getty Images

Eric Ripert, chef/owner of Le Bernardin and a member of BIG, said, "It's going to be very emotional to see such a vibrant place empty and dark. I want everybody to understand that we have to do something. I want the politicians to support us. We're not asking for much, we just want some help to come back and run again."

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After the blackout, a video will play featuring Ripert and other personalities, like Whoopi Goldberg, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the global Jewish human rights group Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Broadway actress and singer Liz Dutton. The video will underscore how important it is that America's small businesses receive federal assistance and fair treatment from insurance companies.

"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," said Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance. "The black-out is both a caution and a call to action to ensure that steps are taken so that the lights don't go dark for millions."

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