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Some NYC Grocery Chains Say Hazard Pay Would Force Layoffs, Store Closures

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Plus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to slowly re-open the state does not include restaurant just yet — and more intel

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Daily Life In New York City Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
Local chains like Morton Williams fear they will have to layoff employees and close stores if hazard pay is enforced
Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Some grocery chains say they’ll need to layoff workers if forced to shell out hazard pay

Last week, the New York City Council introduced sweeping legislation, which among other things would ensure grocery stores with more than 100 employees would have to pay their workers extra during the COVID-19 pandemic as a type of hazard pay. But some grocery chains in NYC say they are worried that they will be forced to layoff workers and close stores if the proposed legislation becomes law, the Real Deal reports.

The legislation would require employers to pay hourly workers $30 for shifts under four hours, $60 for shifts that go between four and eight hours, and $75 for shifts that last longer than that. Companies like Morton Williams and D’Agostino tell TRD that this will decimate their already thin margins due to high NYC rent and competition from national chains like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

Morton Williams owner Avi Kaner tells TRD he would have to close at least half his 16 stores, and D’Agostino owner Nicholas D’Agostino says the law — if passed — would be an additional financial burden for his 11 stores, which are already spending extra cash on protective equipment for employees including masks and gloves. While there are growing calls from grocery store workers for hazard pay, these local chains say they have reached internal agreements with their own employees, including an additional $2 per hour for each worker.

In other news

— While Sweetgreen and Potbelly became the latest chains to return their $10 million federal small business loans, the same can’t be said for high-end Italian market chain Eataly. The market — which has dozens of locations across the world — collected a $10 million loan for small businesses.

— Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently outlined a rough plan for re-opening New York after the current May 15 shutdown deadline. Restaurants don’t seem to figure in the initial round of gradual re-openings, but construction and manufacturing businesses will be.

— A new cookbook that celebrates and shares recipes from some of NYC’s top restaurants including Olmsted, Llama Inn, and Charlie Bird is now available for pre-sale. Proceeds go to the restaurant relief group ROAR.

— Online magazine Punch’s a virtual happy hour will next feature NYC bartenders like Sarah Morrissey from Ernesto’s and Jelani Johnson from Gage & Tollner. Attendees are encouraged to donate to the restaurant’s employee relief funds during the happy hour.

— A third of NYC’s food pantries have closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting longer lines at open ones.

Chobani converted its cafe in Soho into a temporary food pantry last week, according to a spokesperson. The store is distributing Chobani products for free to people in the neighborhood.

— Meat wholesaler DeBragga launched a local delivery site featuring customizable butcher kits.

— COVID-19 and the resultant shutdown of New York will reportedly cost the state $243 billion in economic losses.

— A food importer in Queens has donated more than 20,000 pineapples to various food pantries in Brooklyn.

— Several wine stores across the city have seen an uptick in sales, but New Yorkers are mainly stick to buying cheaper wines.

— East Village Ukranian staple Veselka may be reopening soon for takeout and delivery.

— Hard agree: