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As small business owners repeatedly sound the alarm for federal financial relief, a new survey from Goldman Sachs details COVID-19’s continued impact and proprietors’ shared operating concerns — with none so prescient as for 10th Avenue’s Laly Restaurant, currently fundraising to stave off closure.
Laly is a Hell’s Kitchen example of the 10,000 Small Businesses Voices in Goldman Sachs’s survey presenting the shared challenges of functioning in the pandemic. The rise of Omicron has reset fears of closure and income loss, with reports that “79 percent of respondents are concerned about the ongoing pandemic and the Omicron variant, with 71 percent reporting that the rise in COVID-19 cases brought on by the Omicron variant has adversely impacted their revenue. 37 percent said their business had been forced to temporarily close or scale back operations due to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.”
Supply chain issues, labor shortages, and inflation were also rated as top concerns for business owners in the age of COVID-19, with more than three-quarters of respondents noting that inflation has affected the health of their business. Only 10 percent of respondents felt that the US government had done enough to combat inflation, and just 8 and 9 percent of respondents felt that the government had addressed hiring and supply chain challenges appropriately.
In New York, the blows have been particularly severe, with 86 percent of the city’s small business owners citing inflation, supply chain issues, and workforce challenges as detrimental to their revenue. The relationship between a lack of federal childcare support and the ability to operate was also top of mind, with 59 percent of the city’s small business owners and employees reporting child care challenges. 89 percent of survey respondents also supported subsidized paid family and medical leave for small businesses. And Omicron’s shadow has particularly ruffled New York proprietors, showing 84 percent of city respondents concerned with the variant’s continued effect on their business.
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One of these New York businesses is Laly on 10th Avenue between W44/45th Street — a treasured Dominican restaurant and neighborhood mainstay for 40 years, owned and operated by Ibis Lara since 1998. Laly (also known as Lali) is known for its traditional flavors and well-loved Dominican breakfast and lunch offerings, and has been a longtime destination for Hell’s Kitchen residents and business owners alike.
Says fellow neighborhood shop owner Jeremy Kaplan of Veritas Studio Wines in a review on Facebook, “I truly love this place and was so sad when they closed during COVID. If you have never been — go. First, one of the best breakfast egg sandwiches in the City. But lunch is where they excel — the ladies (all-female crew except an occasional clean-up dude) serve up authentic Dominican cuisine six days a week — each day a different menu — but the same menu year-round — roast chicken, ribs, kingfish, bacala, beef, beans, rice, yuca (steamed or fried) — wonderful soups. My favorite days are “Pies de Cerdo” – Pig’s feet on Thursdays and Cow Stomach ‘Tripa!’ Soup on Fridays.”
But Laly, forced to operate at a high cost with limited income, has not received pandemic relief and faces eviction from over $90,000 owed in accumulated rent. Friends have set up a GoFundMe for supporters to contribute, hoping to prevent an enforced closure after 40 years in business.
Reflecting on Laly’s impact on her and the community-at-large, Lara says — “This place has seen my children be born and grow, and has served food to thousands of people who come in search of the typical Dominican flavor. This is a place that welcomes the many nationalities that exist in New York, especially Latinos who are looking for that taste of food that reminds them of what it is like to be at home in a foreign country.”
While businesses like Laly are left with no option but to launch emergency fundraising, the wider community ardently advocates for federal relief. In the Goldman Sachs survey, “94 percent support Congress reauthorizing the COVID-EIDL loan program to help small businesses and 85 percent support the federal government providing additional emergency financial assistance to small businesses that are still struggling from the pandemic.” It is uncertain how many more beloved landmarks that make New York what it is will need to fight for their lives before such legislation comes to fruition.