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New York City Council voted this afternoon to extend commercial tenant protections. The bill, known as Local Law 1932-A, temporarily suspends personal liability provisions in the leases of certain COVID-impacted businesses through March 31, 2021.

In late May, the Council voted for the suspension of the enforcement of personal liability guarantees. The law was set to expire on September 30. The legislation will now be sent to Mayor de Blasio, who is expected to sign the bill into law before the end of this month.

This is not the final hurdle in the protection of business owners from landlords during the pandemic. The real estate industry has sued the city over this law and the outcome is still uncertain. It is expected that there will be a judgment on the case soon.

“We thank Councilmember Carlina Rivera, Speaker Corey Johnson, and supporters in the City Council for passing this important piece of legislation that protects tens of thousands of small business owners from personal financial ruin,” said a spokesperson for the New York City Hospitality Alliance.”Small business owners should not be held personally liable for the economic crisis that resulted from COVID-19, nor should they be held personally liable for government actions and mandates that have significantly limited their operations and stream of revenues”.

We are fortunate to have an understanding landlord and co-op board who have worked with us during these unprecedented times, but most businesses are not so lucky.

“This is a great example of the City Council doing what it can to make up for a lack of federal action,” said Chef Charlie Marshall of The Marshal. “Without this suspension, there would have been a huge number of small business closures at the end of the month in the city. This gives small businesses some leeway to hope for more stimulus so we can keep paying to be operating because it’s likely that no restaurant is breaking even in this environment.”

Holly-Anne Devlin from Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Action Committee told us: “I’m thrilled to hear about this extension. Corey Johson and his team, including chief of staff Erik Bottcher, have walked through Hell’s Kitchen many times with the HKNAC team and have listened to the outcry from the community. This is a massive win for Hell’s Kitchen small businesses to give them the ability to survive through the COVID-19 storm. I’m grateful and thrilled that the City Council has listened to their constituents and acted accordingly.”

Give tenants free rent and landlords tax credits for giving tenants breaks is the answer.

“We are grateful to the City Council for recognizing the financial hardship that businesses are enduring, which are intensified by unrealistic rents,” said Luisa Cerutti from Domus. “We are fortunate to have an understanding landlord and co-op board who have worked with us during these unprecedented times, but most businesses are not so lucky. The City Council provision is a step in the right direction in a city decimated by the pandemic.”

Ted Arenas, owner of Rise Bar shared his view: “Allowing businesses to accumulate debt that they might not be able to pay only hurts tenants and landlords. Try coming up a plan to help businesses and landlords. Give tenants free rent and landlords tax credits for giving tenants breaks is the answer.”

I fear for those whose lives are going to be ruined when landlords show up in the future looking for that unpaid guarantee money, with no RBG here to protect us.

“This will give small businesses struggling in the neighborhood a big feeling of relief,” said Bryan Ware from Fresh from Hell. ” With Broadway shows not coming back until Spring, we expected things to remain the same through the winter. We are holding on by the strings.”

Sean Hayden from Jasper’s Taphouse messaged us: “Great news! People shouldn’t have to pay personal liability for a virus that came from China. It’s enough to lose your business and deposit. Do the landlords want to nail you to the cross? There is no restaurateur or business on the planet that can balance the books at 25% revenue, it’s a death sentence.”

“While it’s totally great that the NY City Council extended this relief for tenants, I wouldn’t put my money on this passing constitutional muster, especially in the era of Trump judges.” reflected Brian Keyser, owner of Casellula Wine Bar. “My fear is that in two years the landlords are going to win the lawsuits and come after thousands of commercial tenants for all that ‘guarantee’ money that we didn’t pay in 2020.

“As for me, I plan on living in a tropical nation with no extradition treaty with the US, so it won’t be my problem, but I fear for those whose lives are going to be ruined when landlords show up in the future looking for that unpaid guarantee money, with no RBG here to protect us.”