Restaurants ask for more help amid massive Brooklyn closures

Dozens of Brooklyn restaurants have now closed permanently due to the pandemic, with owners claiming they are exhausted just to stay afloat through the winter with “barely any help” from elected officials in one of the worst industries. most popular in New York.

“We’re all supported, we’re all broke and we can’t get any help,” Bed-Stuy Chez Oskar restaurant owner Charlotta Janssen said.

Since indoor meals were banned on December 11, restaurants have had to make the almost impossible decision to stay open, only offer take-out and alfresco dining during snowstorms and below-freezing temperatures, or to close.

Chez Oskar like Chalet Oskar. Photo: Supplied

At least 67 restaurants in Brooklyn have closed in the past ten months, according to The Infatuation’s shopping list of restaurants that closed permanently during the pandemic, with at least 14 closing in New York in the past seven days.

Janssen kept At Oskar open, relying on creativity to try to adapt and stay afloat. Currently, it serves take-out and has created a heated outdoor dining area nicknamed “Chalet Oskar”.

“The delivery is not enough to support a staff,” Janssen said. “We’re lucky to have a long sidewalk, most don’t. We are slowly sliding off a cliff, which means the others are sliding much faster.

She said small businesses have done their best, “cutting off our arms and legs” to comply with each new public safety rule as it comes into force.

Not enough help

Throughout 2020 many restaurateurs built outdoor dining structures and continued to update them as the rules changed, they purchased ventilation equipment for limited indoor dining (subsequently banned ), bought heaters and applied for loans of PPE to survive with no certainty that they would be forgiven.

“We’re almost a year away from this shit show with no help, just a little PPE and it’s a joke, it just helps big companies,” Janssen said. “Our politicians are really absent from the action. It’s a chop, there are so many victims and so many shattered dreams and so many beautiful small businesses destroyed.

Fancy Nancy is open and tries to keep her head above water. Photo: Supplied

New round of PPP loans set to start next Monday, SBA and Treasury announcement Friday. The new cycle will allow Community financial institutions will grant first loans from Monday and second loans to former PPP beneficiaries from Wednesday.

The latest round of PEP loans has come under heavy criticism for allowing large banks and well-connected businesses to grab plenty of loans, while small businesses, especially those belonging to minorities, have had difficulty accessing credit. vital funds.

Cold

Meanwhile, the cold had been the last straw for many small businesses that closed, temporarily or permanently, this season.

Bed-Stuy community bar and concert hall The Wilky has been closed due to the cold since November 22, with plans to reopen when it warms up. Owner Dennis Geoghan said it was “mission impossible” for a small bar like his to keep patrons warm and have 50% of its outdoor space open to the elements.

The Wilky is looking forward to reopening and supporting local musicians when the weather warms up. Photo: The Wilky / @drinkgreatbeer

“Even at the high cost of purchasing these heaters, they just aren’t effective against the cold.”

Geoghan said he was lucky to own the apartment building the Wilky is in, although he still has a mortgage to pay. For him and others facing the same uncertainty, he wanted politicians to change the old zoning so that outdoor seating was only allowed temporarily due to the pandemic.

“We’ve seen closures all over Brooklyn and great mom-and-pop stores that could’ve been there for 30, 40, 50 years are closing. It’s just tragic. I think we need to think about our neighborhoods and think about how we can support these places, they are the heart and soul of communities.

Of the recent closings, seven are in Park Slope, seven in Bushwick, six in Prospect Heights, six in Crown Heights and three in Bed-Stuy. If each of these restaurants employed five people, these closures would represent 335 unemployed people.

Cuomo halted indoor dining late last year in an attempt to curb a growing second wave in the city. Although he acknowledged that restaurants were not the main driver of the rise in cases in the city, he said his concern was that they were places of transmission.

However, New York state contact tracing data shows that of the 46,000 cases of COVID-19 between September and November, only 1.43% could be linked to restaurants and bars, while 73, 84% were linked to social gatherings.

Hang on

After temporarily closing for the colder weeks of the holidays, the Bed-Stuy restaurant Mom fox reopened for outdoor dining and take out Thursday.

Owner Samantha DiStefano said restaurateurs are forced to make impossible choices. If you close temporarily, you still have overhead costs like rent and insurance.

Samantha DiStefano, owner of Mama Fox. Photo: Jessy Edwards for the BK Reader.

The money in a PPP loan was “long gone” and had strict restrictions on how it could be used. DiStefano said they were told the loans would be forgivable, but no one she knows had received confirmation yet, after submitting documents.

“So how many debts do I go into debt when I have no idea if they’re going to be forgiven?” It’s just an impossible decision to make because you are doing it completely blindly. She said the restaurants that were still open were just trying to hang on until spring. “I have to say I’m exhausted. We are all exhausted.

Co-owner of the Bed-Stuy restaurant Butch & Coco Kwame Owusu also said local and state officials are not doing enough to take care of small businesses, which in turn provide jobs for residents of the neighborhood. Butch & Coco is always open for delivery and has some seating outside.

Butch & Coco Café. Photo: Supplied.

“What we’re trying to do is have people there and work, they need jobs. We don’t make any money with it, we just make sure that we can truly provide for the community around us. “

He pointed to delivery services making enough money to be made public, while local restaurants floundered.

Restaurateurs Kris and Jay Chan said even existing is a challenge, but they try to keep their heads above water as much as possible.

Fancy Nancy owners Kris and Jay Chan. Photo: Supplied

They had pivoted in the pandemic to transform their restaurant Nancy fancy in what they call a “lemonade stand” with a lean menu, but with a lack of guidance and conflicting messages from leaders, it was difficult to know where to focus already depleted resources.

“Public funding during this pandemic has been disappointing across the board, not just for restaurants… But if restaurants are to survive, we need more rent relief. We understand: Homeowners have to pay property taxes and honor bank loans, which is why the government has to step in. “

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