City Council votes to provide relief to local restaurants affected by COVID-19 pandemic

May 18, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
City Council votes to provide relief to local restaurants affected by COVID-19 pandemic
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Help is on the way for small and local restaurants.

On Wednesday, May 13, the City Council voted on legislation to protect small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The package of five bills is designed to help small businesses survive the fiscal impacts of the loss of business and limited food service due to efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

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Councilmember Justin Brannan discussed the importance of local eateries.

“Everyone loves to say that small businesses are the backbone of our economy,” he told this paper. “Everyone loves to say how we have to protect our mom and pop shops because our mom and pop shops are what make our neighborhoods neighborhoods! But now more than ever talk is cheap and platitudes won’t keep our small businesses alive. They need relief and they need action from their government.”

The several bills include capping fees that third-party food delivery platforms may charge, preventing third-party delivery platforms from charging restaurants for telephone orders that did not result in a transaction, and suspending sidewalk cafe fees.

“Small businesses and restaurants are the heart and soul of New York City and right now they are hurting,” said  City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “They are paying high fees, getting harassed and are worried about losing their homes. They need help and this small business package is designed to protect them during this pandemic.”

The City Council also passed a bill that protects commercial tenants against harassment, which will prevent commercial landlords from going after business owners' private homes and personal accounts during the pandemic.

“Our small businesses are drowning,” Brannan said. “They’re staring into an abyss right now. We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know how long we’re going to be in purgatory like we are right now. Some businesses have shuttered altogether. Others are doing their best to adapt. Some businesses that have been deemed essential with the governor’s magic wand still can’t survive. And part of being a leader is knowing when to listen. My door is always open to our local small business owners. Understanding what they are going through right now will help inform the policy decisions we make as lawmakers during this crazy time.”

Some local restaurants have temporarily closed, such as Skinflints, 7902 Fifth Ave.

“We appreciate all the love and support we've received while we've been closed!” wrote the establishment on its Facebook page. “We miss you all terribly and will hopefully be reopening soon!! In the meantime we have been trying to support other local restaurants in the neighborhood that are still open and love seeing you all do the same! We hope you all are staying safe and healthy and can't wait to serve you again!”

Dyker Heights’ Colandrea New Corner, 7201 Eighth Ave., which suspended all of its operations back in March, is back in business for take-out.

Also reopening for orders and pick-ups is Peppino’s, 7708 Third Ave.

“In order to offer the safest delivery and pickup service, we have installed a pick up window!” they wrote on their Facebook page. “We are excited to serve our community again! Back to business starting (May 5).”

Other eateries have shuttered their doors.

After more than 25 years, the owners of La Sorrentina Ristorante, 6522 11th Ave., announced they have shut their doors for good in April.

“To our loving and loyal customers: We’ve unfortunately had to close at this time, with no plan of reopening,” they wrote. “We thank you for all the years of support. We are so grateful that you’ve shared all your important occasions and milestones with us! We love all our customers, please be well and stay safe! God bless!”

And at the end of May, My Thai Cafe, 7803 Third Ave. will also be closing.

“As a former small business owner, and husband of a current small business owner, helping small businesses is very personal to me,” Brannan said. “I recognize what they mean to our communities. And I don’t want to imagine a world without them. So we need to do everything we can to help them weather this unprecedented storm so that when the dust settles they’ll still be around. We all wish we just had bottomless buckets of cash to give to these small businesses to help them stay afloat but that’s just not reality. We have seen some help from D.C. and we’re anticipating more but we also need to be smart and creative. We need to craft creative policy. We need legislation that will lessen the burden for them during the pandemic. So, this week, my colleagues and I in the New York City Council did exactly that.”

The first bill will cap the amount of commission a third-party delivery service is allowed to charge at 15 percent per order for delivery and 5 percent per order for all other types of charges.

The second bill will prevent third-party delivery platforms from charging restaurants for telephone orders that did not result in a transaction. Members also voted on a bill to suspend sidewalk cafe fees throughout New York City during the pandemic.

The council also voted to protect commercial tenants against harassment as a result of being a COVID-19 impacted business. This legislation will make this harassment punishable by a civil penalty of $10,000 to $50,000. Another bill will temporarily suspend personal liability provisions in leases of COVID-19 impacted businesses. This will prevent commercial landlords from going after business owners’ homes. The council also voted on legislation to protect residential tenants from harassment as a result of being impacted by COVID-19.

Finally, they voted on legislation to require the city to publish a list of licenses, permits, consents or registrations not covered by the renewal extension in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Executive Order No. 107.

“We passed a package of bills laser-focused on helping ease the burden on our small businesses in the here and now,” said Brannan. “We capped the clandestine fees that delivery apps like GrubHub and UberEats can charge restaurants. We suspended sidewalk café license fees. And we passed a bill that protects commercial tenants against harassment which will prevent commercial landlords from going after business owners' private homes and personal accounts while we’re dealing with COVID19.”

Image by Google Images

Local restaurants to receive aid by several City Council bills

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