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We contacted over 200 business owners to see how they were coping with the pandemic. They’ve lost two-thirds of their trade on average, but are still fighting for survival.
“This has been a heck of a ride, and a longer one than I think most of us imagined it could be,” said Chef Charlie Marshall from The Marshal. “From celebrity chef joints to scoop-n-serve places, all of our restaurants are still here only because of our loyal employees and our indefatigable customers. As meager an existence as this now is, having their support is what makes our future possible. Hope, loyalty, and optimism.”
His final rallying call: “I am exhausted, we all are. The end will be so jubilant, there will be no holding it back.”
“We are New Yorkers. We dance through our fear and always have hope. We come together in these uncertain times. We have a state that has a plan, a city that unites, and customers who care,” said Flaming Saddles owner, Jacqui Squatriglia. “We are finding a new normal, and a new way. New choreography leads us as we rise up, grateful for today and looking forward to tomorrow. Compassion, patience and love will lead the way. We will survive together. We say cheers to the future of this city we love and to the strength of the people who live in it.”
Meanwhile, we talked last night to Nick Accardi at Tavola. His summary: “If it wasn’t for my faith in God as well as my brave and courageous staff, I’m not so sure that I would be able to get out of bed some mornings.”
Here’s the background…
Who’s paid rent?
Only 20% of local businesses have managed to pay their full rent.
Has the landlord waived any rent?
Good news is that 42% of landlords have waived some rent during the pandemic. Although nearly half have not.
Has the landlord deferred any rent?
This is a reflection of the market. Landlords are being inflexible.
There’s not much confidence in New York’s political leaders from small business owners.
Governor Cuomo fares relatively well, but Mayor de Blasio is not a winner of this popularity contest. And the results are disappointing for Speaker Corey Johnson, who is a mayoral candidate for 2021 and represents the area.
Small Business Owner Confidence?
The great news is that our local businesses are fighters. They plan to be here next year, with 20% feeling they can definitely make it through.
Here’s an expert’s view…
We talked to Paul Ficalora, a New York restaurant consultant, about the challenges for Hell’s Kitchen businesses (and specifically the desire to open restaurants and bars for indoor dining). He told us our survey gave hope that the potential for opening at 50% capacity does provide an opportunity. Our survey showed 30% wanted to dine indoors, and 25% were unsure. However, Paul told us “in order for that restaurant to survive, they need to have the landlord reduce their rent by 50%. And that’s a big ask of the landlord. However, the landlord is faced with a dire alternative, which is no tenant.”
Paul also flagged that the survey represented only the readers still in Hell’s Kitchen, and did not recognize the temporary and permanent exodus of neighbors. “The survey you did was from the people that are there,” said Paul. “But what about the people that are no longer there?”
However, the #WFH culture and restaurant closures do provide opportunities. “You really don’t know the size of the market anymore,” said Paul. “There may be restaurants that aren’t opening, which means there are a limited amount of opportunities for dining, which would be an advantage to those that are able to open up. Also, neighborhood restaurants usually flourishes for dinner — and not lunch or breakfast (unless you’re operating a diner). So those might be two other areas, since people are predominantly working from home now, that restaurants might increase their sales.”
What the business owners think…
“There is no BIG idea. It’s just about somehow getting through the next however many months and hoping that tourism returns quickly once there’s a vaccine. Some kind of rent relief would be a big part of that. So perhaps a program to give landlords some relief and then pass it along to commercial tenants?” Matt Fox, Fine & Dandy.
“We need funding from the government that we DO NOT have to pay back, to help us stay afloat until we return to some type of normal. We will never make up the lost revenue from the months of being closed. The city MUST do something about the homeless and criminal activity in the neighborhood or people will not feel safe coming to Hell’s Kitchen.” Maria Lanza, David Ryan Salon.
“We need a new mayor who can get our city right again. There’s no safety or cleanliness, that means no business. We need a new mayor now.” Bruce Horowytz, 44 & X Restaurant.
FEEDING THE NEIGHBORHOOD
“The Federal Government should give all restaurants the difference between last year’s revenues and now. Then we can pay our employees, farmers, creameries, fishermen, distributors and landlords, and make food for all the front line workers and those in need. Solves several problems with one simple move.” Brian Keyser, Casellula.
“Let me open for indoor dining, along with the European model of paying for half of meals/checks.” Jamie Gwynne, Hudson Station.
“Indoor dining is the only choice with New York’s bitter winters. I don’t see any other alternative.” Luis Garcia, Arriba Arriba.
“Re-open indoor dining at 50% capacity like the rest of New York State. Other regions have been open for over 2 months with no COVID increase.” Ted Arenas, Rise Bar.
As we were going to press late on Saturday night, we asked Nick Accardi (who has family businesses on 9th Avenue like Tavola and Vito’s), about what inspires him to keep going. “You want inspiration? With whatever sidewalk and delivery business we have, I’m still hemorrhaging money every day. If that’s not bad enough, just before I tried closing my eyes to go to sleep tonight I heard 5 gun shots out my window after yet another day of gut-wrenching and at times violent interactions with mentally ill people and outright violent jailhouse style confrontations. Still no word of any kind as to when we can partially sit inside from our Mayor. If it wasn’t for my faith in God as well as my brave and courageous staff, I’m not so sure that I would be able to get out of bed some mornings.”
UPDATES. What are you thoughts? Have you a big idea? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.