With hundreds of Queens restaurants shuttered and thousands of workers left unemployed, Councilman Robert Holden is imploring Governor Andrew Cuomo to do more to help dining establishments that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Holden fired off a letter to the governor calling on him to allow New York City restaurants to open indoor dining at 50 percent capacity immediately, rather than permitting only 25 percent and waiting until Valentine’s Day.
“I ask that you reconsider your decision to open indoor dining at 25 percent by Feb. 14 and instead allow restaurants to open at 50 percent today,” Holden said. “While our business owners see packed restaurants in Long Island, they consider packing their boxes and closing their establishments for good. We should all be concerned that any further damage could be the final nail in our restaurant and hospitality industry coffin.”
Holden wrote that the “facts are quite clear” and urged Cuomo to “do the right thing” and not let his ongoing feud with Mayor Bill de Blasio cloud his judgement leading to “irreparable and irreversible harm” to Queens restaurants.
“Nassau County, just a stone’s throw away from Queens County, is currently at 50 percent capacity despite their positivity rate being at 6.6 percent, which is higher than New York City’s 5.8 percent,” he wrote. “You hold the fate of thousands of business owners in your hand. Please do right by them and decide based on the facts that you have right in front of you.”
The Queens Chamber of Commerce agrees that the restaurant industry has already lost too many small businesses and jobs during the shutdown.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we have sadly lost over 1,000 Queens-based cherished neighborhood restaurants, and the vast majority of those that haven’t closed are hanging on by a thread,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Grech said. “These small businesses have done everything asked of them to keep their employees, customers and communities safe, but between freezing temperatures making outdoor dining nearly impossible and the restrictions placed on them by government, it’s getting harder and harder for them to survive.”
While reopening indoor dining is a step in the right direction, Grech hopes the state can do more to help.
“The return of indoor dining at 25 percent capacity on Valentine’s Day will be a massive relief to restaurant owners, who look forward to welcoming back their loyal and supportive customers,” Grech said. “While this long-awaited move is helpful, it is not nearly enough and we urge the governor, in the strongest terms, to increase capacity to 50 percent by March 1 and 100 percent by St. Patrick’s Day. We must continue to push for more to be done to help these small business owners, including calling on Congress and President Biden to pass The RESTAURANTS Act immediately. We ask that all New Yorkers support their favorite restaurants at this time.”
The $120 billion bipartisan RESTAURANTS Act was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate Friday. The legislation is modeled after the bill introduced last Congressional Session (and passed by the House in October) and would create a fund to provide relief for foodservice businesses allowing business operators to apply for grants up to $10 million to cover expenses incurred during the pandemic, retroactive to Feb. 15, 2020.