Small business owners in Sunnyside call for relief as lockdown looms

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

A group of small business owners from Queens gathered in Sunnyside earlier this week to demand financial relief as the city barrels towards a second lockdown.

The newly formed Woodside Sunnyside Small Business Survival Coalition held the rally in front of P.J. Horgans Bar and Restaurant, which shut its doors in March because its owners couldn’t pay rent, to call for a stimulus package on Tuesday, Dec. 15. They warned that without financial assistance, the local infrastructure of western Queens could be headed for disaster.

“If we don’t get help, we won’t be able to make it to April, when people are starting to go out again,” said Niall Castello, the owner of Claret Wine Bar. “January, February and March are tough months in the restaurant business, even without a pandemic. We just want to stay open to keep our staff employed. We need some help from the government.”

The coalition of small businesses was created after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the closure of indoor dining last week and as Mayor Bill de Blasio and the governor contemplate a larger scale shutdown, similar to measures taken in the spring.

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The rally brought out a diverse display of business interests, from restaurants to arts and culture providers.

Israel Martinez has run a dance studio in northwest Queens for more than two decades and now fears that he’ll be forced out of business without receiving a relief package.

“With COVID, it has decimated our business,” said Martinez, the founder of Martinez Dance Studios. “We need the City Council, we need [Mayor Bill] de Blasio, we need Governor [Andrew] Cuomo to help us. This is why I pay lifelong taxes; when a disaster happens, my government takes care of me.”

Though Congress appeared to be approaching a new stimulus deal on Wednesday, the financial package likely won’t include a funding for state and local governments, including New York, according to The New York Times.

Additional reporting by Gabriele Holtermann. 

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