clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

How Some of NYC’s Leading Mayoral Candidates Plan to Help the Hospitality Industry

Four of the 14 candidates currently running for mayor debate issues facing the hospitality industry

New York City Restaurants Face Continued Uncertainty Amid COVID-19 Pandemic Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In a live forum on Wednesday evening, four of the 14 candidates in the mayoral election appeared on Zoom to debate issues related to the city’s battered restaurant and nightlife industry. The panel, hosted by the New York City Hospitality Alliance, featured: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams; Ray McGuire, the former vice chairman of Citigroup; New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer; and Maya Wiley, a civil rights attorney, professor, and activist. Andrew Yang was scheduled to participate in the panel but was “at home recovering from coronavirus,” according to Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, who moderated the event.

As part of the panel, restaurateurs from across the five boroughs asked the candidates questions about third-party delivery apps, State Liquor Authority fines, outdoor dining, and more. The restaurateurs include Melba Wilson, owner of Melba’s in Harlem; Massimo Felici, owner of Vinum in Staten Island; Alfredo Angueira, owner of the Bronx Drafthouse in the Bronx; Anya Sapozhnikova, co-owner of House of Yes in Bushwick; and Loycent Gordon, owner of Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven.

The candidates’ stances on a variety of issues are outlined below, in alphabetical order by last name. A recording of the full forum can be found on Facebook through the NYC Hospitality Alliance.

*Answers have been edited for length and clarity.


Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President speaks during Martin... Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President

As mayor, what will you do to address property tax burdens placed on the restaurant industry? I believe we should put a hold on [triple-net leases] for two years at a minimum while we are going through COVID-19 to get you back on your feet... Too many people are making decisions about your business that never actually had to be part of a business.

How would you reshape and reform the city government’s permitting, regulatory, and inspection process of our industry? I believe we need a red, yellow, green system. Red being something that needs to be repaired right away — 24, 48 hours — because it’s life threatening. Yellow is something that should be repaired because it’s good for safety purposes, give people seven days or two weeks to do it, and green is something that you can do in 30 days.

What is your stance on legislation that requires small businesses with more than five workers to provide employees with two weeks of paid vacation time? When we increase the minimum wage, when we do more for our workers, we do more for our city... Thumbs up to giving our employees the best that they can possibly have to be gainfully employed and have a qualitative life and at the same time we must do our share to take down [restaurant owners’] cost so you can be productive.

Besides policy making, what kind of events would you undertake after the pandemic to help restore NYC as the culinary capital of the world? Our governmental agencies have treated [Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island] as the outer boroughs... Nothing personifies that more than how we treat things like festivals, Open Streets, biking, all of those things. We isolate it to gentrified communities... Not while I’m mayor.

Do you support permanently capping third-party delivery fees? Heck yes. These guys were really overusing and exploiting the moment... I believe not only should we cap them, we should demand that what they are doing to delivery workers — not allowing them to have a place to use the restroom, not paying them the right salaries, not ensuring that they have insurance — we need to really look at this new industry and adjust it to make sure that it’s fair and equitable.

Favorite restaurants: Imani Caribbean Kitchen in Fort Greene and Uptown Veg in Harlem

Anti-Trump Activists March To Trump Tower In New York Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

Scott Stringer, New York City Comptroller

As mayor, what will you do to address property tax burdens placed on the restaurant industry? I have proposed a business income tax credit to help with reopening costs and back payments and a property tax credit for opening businesses in high vacancy rates. We have got to give tax relief to the businesses that are barely hanging on... but we also have to incentivize new businesses or existing businesses to eventually expand in our vacant commercial corridors.

How would you reshape and reform the city government’s permitting, regulatory, and inspection process of our industry? There’s no question that part of inspection is just to get as much money into the general fund without regard to actually making sure the restaurant is safe... I would create whole new metrics for making sure we keep businesses safe and people who go through those businesses but we cannot have this unruly mess that is wrecking the businesses — the small businesses — of our city.

What is your stance on legislation that requires small businesses with more than five workers to provide employees with two weeks of paid vacation time? I am committed to doing everything in my power to make sure that workers are paid and treated fairly. I do think when we fight for our workers and we ask our restaurant industry to step up as you have, I also believe we should give you the offset you need to help invest in your employees.

Besides policy making, what kind of events would you undertake after the pandemic to help restore NYC as the culinary capital of the world? Let’s widen sidewalks, let’s create space for more seating, how about bus shelters, bike parking, public restrooms. Keep the streets clean and open and plan streets that encourage people to eat, to shop, to walk local... That’s how we’re going to attract people to New York City worldwide. That’s how we’re going to become the culinary capital.

Stringer left the panel early and could not respond to the remainder of his questions

Key Speakers At The 2019 Milken Conference Getty Images

Ray McGuire, former vice chairman of CitiGroup.

As mayor, what will you do to address property tax burdens placed on the restaurant industry? We are now living in a world where the high property taxes in many neighborhoods have driven up the rents for small businesses, which has caused significant turnover and a lot of vacant storefronts... What I have outlined in my plan... is to create a menu of financial relief options that can be made available to the property owners in exchange for lowering or forgiving rent or providing early lease breaks.

How would you reshape and reform the city government’s permitting, regulatory, and inspection process of our industry? We need to cut the red tape. We need to put systems in place and metrics in place to make sure everyone knows what’s taking place. The restaurant owners know what the metrics are that they need to satisfy in order for them to remain open... Right now it’s crippling and it’s not being applied uniformly.

What is your stance on legislation that requires small businesses with more than five workers to provide employees with two weeks of paid vacation time? We need to make certain that the burden on you all as owners is not so heavy that you can’t do business. We all also need to make certain that those people who are essential workers — the face-to-face workers in the restaurants — have some benefits.

Besides policy making, what kind of events would you undertake after the pandemic to help restore NYC as the culinary capital of the world? A “Comeback Festival.” I intend to launch it in the spring of ’22. It’s going to include venues and galleries and performance stages. Bars and restaurants are going to be included. Parks in every neighborhood. We’re going to make the city a pop destination for travelers for around the world.

Do you support permanently capping third-party delivery fees? I want to take a careful look at that.

Favorite restaurants? Peaches in Bed-Stuy, the Lambs Club in Times Square, Bricks and Hops in the Bronx, Melba’s in Harlem, and Red Rooster in Harlem

Candidate for mayor of NYC Maya Wiley speaks during Martin... Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Maya Wiley, professor of urban policy at the New School and former ACLU attorney

As mayor, what will you do to address property tax burdens placed on the restaurant industry? The problem is people in government who are trying to help us have never run a business. Part of what that means is that it becomes a one size fits all and it doesn’t take into account what is different for different sectors of small business... Commercially affordable rent and having a commercial affordable rent program is something we don’t have. I will have an announcement hopefully in the next few weeks on that.

How would you reshape and reform the city government’s permitting, regulatory, and inspection process of our industry? We are balancing constantly how we are communicating to the public that we’re protecting [public health and safety] at the same time that we’re protecting our businesses that are so important to making sure that people have jobs to making sure that people can support families.

What is your stance on legislation that requires small businesses with more than five workers to provide employees with two weeks of paid vacation time? I think it is critically important that we figure out exactly what supports our workers to be able to work with dignity and our small businesses to be able to survive. Those are two things that should not be pitted against each other... This is not a zero-sum game. We will save our restaurant industry and we will do it in a way that enables people to support their families.

Favorite restaurants? Il Posto Accanto in Manhattan

Wiley left the panel early and could not respond to the remainder of her question

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater New York newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world