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Some Shuttered Small Businesses Find Their Insurance Refuses To Cover COVID-19 Losses

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Small businesses across Chicago are turning to their insurance agents to recoup some of their losses from COVID-19 – only to learn the policies do not cover this kind of disaster.

CBS 2's Tim McNicholas on Tuesday explained why many business owners are on their own.

Ali Denizman thought he was covered. After all, he pays more than $17,000 a year to insure his George Street Pub, 2858 N. Halsted St.

"This is basically Chicago's version of a hurricane," Denizman said. "We didn't have anything to do with it."

But Denizman's insurance company told him in an email they will not cover anything related to the coronavirus shutdown. And now, Denizman worries his bar and grill won't survive on just carry-out orders.

"Every single day, the panic gets a little worse. Yeah, it sets in," he said. "You can't run a business without customers."

Most policies will only cover a loss of business if the loss stems from physical property damage, such as a tree falling and forcing the business to close.

"There's no direct physical loss that would trigger coverage," Denizman said.

Omri Ben-Shahar is a University of Chicago law professor, who said some insurance companies even rewrote their policies after the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s.

"They have rewritten these business interruption and property insurance policies to specifically exclude any loss to due virus or bacteria," Ben-Shahar said.

One New Jersey lawmaker introduced a bill last week that would force insurance companies to pay some business interruption claims. But that is just in New Jersey, and for now, it's just a bill.

That means Mark Lagenza and his On Tour Brewing company, 1725 W. Hubbard St., are out of luck.

"It could anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 in lost revenue," Lagenza said.

Like the George Street Pub, On Tour Brewing pays tens of thousands of dollars per year for insurance that will not cover those losses.

You can still pick up beer from both locations for takeout. On Tour Brewing will also deliver on Fridays.

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