- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed seven pieces of legislation on Tuesday as part of a COVID-19 relief package to provide assistance to restaurants, commercial establishments and tenants during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
- The relief package includes specific laws for restaurants such as barring third-party food delivery services from charging restaurants a fee for telephone orders that don’t result in a sale; caps on third-party food delivery services commissions at 15% per order and 5% for any other charge during the declared emergency and 90 days after; and the suspension of sidewalk cafe fees from restaurants through Feb. 28.
- Other laws that protect COVID-19 impacted businesses include classifying threats to a commercial tenant as a form of harassment, protection for commercial tenants’ personal assets by prohibiting personal liability provisions in commercial leases or rental agreements, expansion of the definition of tenant harassment to protect tenants from threats based on status as an essential employee, among other provisions.
These new laws could go a long way to help New York City restaurants start to recover from the economic impact from the pandemic, which resulted in roughly $2 billion in lost sales and over 250,000 lost jobs during the first 22 days of March in the entire state. During that time, sales dropped by 58%, and 48% of operators temporarily closed their restaurants.
New York City’s bars and restaurants have been closed since mid-March and will likely be among the last to reopen. But as of Monday, the city met five of seven criteria to begin Phase 1 of reopening under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health-based criteria, according to Eater. Restaurant dining rooms won’t be allowed to reopen until Phase 3, which will occur at least a month after Phase 1 begins. De Blasio expects to meet the rest of the criteria by early June, which means restaurants would be able to reopen by early July at the earliest. Under that timeframe, dining rooms will have been closed for about 16 weeks.
Even with restaurants able to provide takeout and delivery, this hasn’t generated enough business to pay basic operating costs. In a May survey conducted by the NYC Hospitality Alliance, which represents over 480 restaurants, bars, clubs and event venues in the city, 87.1% of respondents said they couldn’t pay their May rent or only paid a portion. The organization also found that 3.6% of respondents believe their business would permanently close while 53% were unsure of their company’s future.
“Since the coronavirus has hit, so many small businesses are struggling, so many are worried they may not be able to survive. They are crucial to this city, they are crucial in every sense,” de Blasio said during the Tuesday signing. “So, this crisis has really, really thrown small business for a loop and we need to help in every way we can.”