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Despite the boost of outdoor dining, nearly 90% of restaurants and bars could not pay their full August rent, according to the results of a poll by New York City Hospitality Alliance, a nonprofit trade organization representing the hospitality industry. They surveyed 457 restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and event venues in NYC about their rent obligations during COVID-19. The survey data was collected between August 25 to September 11, 2020.
This report comes as the September 30 deadline looms for small business owners’ protection from their personal guarantees. Early in the pandemic, New York City Council introduced a protection suspending enforcement of owners’ personal liability in commercial leases, called Local Law 1932-A. This currently expires the day that indoor dining at 25% capacity is planned to reopen. New York City Council is considering extending the law through March 2021, but that’s still not been passed.
The NYCHA also reported that 60% of landlords still haven’t waived rent during the COVID-19 pandemic – and of the 40% of landlords who waived rent, less than a third waived more than half the rent.
This is the third month of the survey and the percentage of those not paying full rent has increased every month, from 80% in June, to 83% in July. The most recent survey reports that 87% could not pay their full August rent.
“It’s important to give the restaurateur more time for their business to hopefully return to close to normal,” said Nick Livanos from Ousia on W57th St beneath VIA. “Having the threat of eviction and being held personally liable for the rent is overwhelming for the operator and doesn’t help anyone. This will also motivate landlords to negotiate new terms and rent forgiveness.”
New York City Council member, Carlina Rivera said on Twitter last week: “Some business owners will be forced to walk away. According to Yelp, more than 2,800 of them in NYC have permanently closed shop since March. With my legislation, they can take solace in the fact that landlords can’t go after their personal savings and assets.”
There is no restaurateur or business on the planet that can balance the books at 25% revenue, it’s a death sentence.
“It’s a tough situation. Some tenants made deals early on in the pandemic while under pressure from landlords and now they have to go back to negotiate a second time. For some, the PPP is gone, and now they’re looking to raise capital or digging into their own resources. The bottom line is that the spaces are not worth what they used to be and it’s impossible to put a number on anything because of the uncertainty and the unknown future that lies ahead,” said Sean Hayden, owner/partner at Jasper’s Taphouse and Kitchen, and four other bars including McCoy’s, Dalton’s, and Valerie in Midtown.
He advised: “I would urge any tenant that if your landlord is not working with you, give him the keys back before the 1932-A bill expires. The only deal to make with a landlord is for a percentage of sales until we get back to 100% capacity. Even at that, it might not be enough to survive. There is no restaurateur or business on the planet that can balance the books at 25% revenue, it’s a death sentence. The utilities, insurance, and payroll will bury you. The next 6 months will be a real battle. Hopefully by spring, if we have a vaccine, we can start to get back to somewhat normality.”
UPDATES: We have asked local business owners for their views and requested a progress report on the extension of Local Law 1932-A. We will update this story throughout the day.