Multiple New York trade organizations representing restaurant owners are calling for the state to offer tax breaks and to cap food delivery service fees — in addition to a host of other requests, as the industry prepares for drastic economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis.
The New York State Restaurant Association and the New York City Hospitality Alliance, which represent restaurant owners across the state and in the city, respectively, have published open calls to government officials in a plea for business support following recent measures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. At press conferences on Thursday, the state banned all group gatherings over 500 people and mandated a 50 percent reduction in capacity for any facility that holds less than 500 people, including restaurants and bars.
But the governor and Mayor Bill de Blasio offered little clarity on how restaurants and their staff would be able to weather the extreme blows to their businesses that the government regulations will cause.
With restaurants already seeing up to 70 percent slashes in revenues over the past week, and some announcing indefinite closures, the organizations are demanding that the government step in and provide more relief to small businesses, as “the dramatic decline in business will only get worse,” writes Melissa Fleischut, the president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, in the organization’s open letter.
In the city, the NYC Hospitality Alliance has put together a 12-point plan that includes a call for “immediate cash infusions” to stem mounting sales losses and help restaurants stay open. The organization is also asking the government to extend grace periods for non-hazardous business violations, enact rent subsidies for restaurants, waive the sidewalk cafe operation fees due at the end of the month, and protect tenants in commercial buildings from eviction during this time.
Other asks from both trade groups include putting a cap on food delivery service fees to prevent potential price gouging, enacting extensions or suspensions on business tax payments, and eliminating late-payment fees related to business and property taxes. The letter from the state group also requests that government officials educate the public on safe dining out practices.
“We have member restaurants who have seen a 55 percent decrease in their business, and if they were to take on any additional costs they may not be able to stay in business,” Fleischut writes. “For some restaurants, it may be impossible to keep their doors open.”
In Sunset Park’s Chinatown, multiple restaurants that have been suffering since news broke of the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China have been forced to close their doors indefinitely.
Eater has reached out to the governor’s office, the mayor’s office, and the local health department for clarity on the mandates that were announced today, and what support restaurants can expect in light of the new regulations and bans.
“We cannot overstate how many restaurants are facing a dire future right now,” Fleischut writes. “We want to stay open and keep employees on the payroll, but for some that will not be possible if this pandemic, and the associated quarantines, continue for even the next month.”
Here’s the full New York State Restaurant Association letter:
Here’s the New York City Hospitality Alliance’s recommended plan of action:
Update, Friday, March 13 at 8:53 a.m.: This story has been updated with additional information from the New York City Hospitality Alliance.