(ABOVE: Empty room at Piccolo’s – photo by Gail Job, April 2015)
As municipalities nationwide begin imposing restrictions on venues and businesses, the knock-on economic effect will be unprecedented. Small, local businesses—which account for the heart and soul of a regional economy—are the ones most likely to feel the most severe impact of these drastic provisional constraints.
“Principal concern is paying employees when business slows down and even worse if we have to close,” says Clemence Mayet Danko, owner of Choc-O-Pain French Bakery & Cafe—with four locations throughout Hoboken and Jersey City. “That prevents me from sleeping at night.” She adds, “Then there will be paying rent…”
Dave Carney, owner of The Madison Bar & Grill, echoes similar concerns.
“There’s pay for 50 employees, [our] rent is due soon, State taxes due on 20th, liquor bills due at the end of the week,” he says. “Then there are the start up costs when we’re able to open again.”
Hoboken, Jersey City, Weehawken, Union City and even New York City have announced aggressive measures to fight the spread of Coronavirus, in an effort to “flatten the curve” of contagion by limiting social contact. That means bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters, daycares, and schools regionwide are closed. This trend will likely become a response nationwide in the days, weeks, and months to come.
“It’s not about me,” says Carney. “I can survive for a few months at home.”
Another restaurant owner tells hMAG that despite the remaining segment of take-out orders and deliveries, business in his establishment is obviously coming up well short of what they need keep the lights on.
“It’s nowhere near covering our normal sales,” he tells us. “Meanwhile we have people that no longer need to be on staff—waiters, busboys, bartenders. They no longer have a source of income, and most of them live paycheck to paycheck.”
“I’m very concerned about the economic ramifications,” he says. “I’m not really worried about the disease—we’ve done everything we can to sterilize our establishment. I’m more concerned about these draconian measures,” he says. “I think it’s an overreaction.”
***CLICK HERE for CDC Business Guidelines and an Outbreak Response Plan***
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, who announced the closure of that city’s bars and restaurants, has been in touch with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Albio Sires, expressing his concerns on behalf of Hoboken’s business owners.
“As you may be aware, the City of Hoboken was the first in the country to mandate the closure of bars and restaurants in order to enhance social distancing and help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Multiple states and cities across the country have already implemented similar restrictions, and I am certain that others will as well in the days ahead,” says the Mayor in a letter.
“While I believe this decision will save lives, I also know that our small businesses and their employees are suffering. Business owners fear that an extended closure will make it difficult if not impossible to remain in business. Their employees—many without benefits—don’t have the option of working from home, and they are fearful. We need the help and resources of the federal government now more than ever.”
Currently, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is granting low-interest disaster relief loans on a case-by-case scenario.
According to their website, “The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Upon a request received from a state’s or territory’s Governor, SBA will issue under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the President, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration.”
***CLICK HERE for SBA disaster relief loan application information***
In his letter, Bhalla states, “I applaud you and your colleagues for quickly passing the bipartisan emergency relief package for free coronavirus testing, paid sick, family and medical leave, unemployment insurance, and food assistance programs. I am encouraged that there is already a discussion about a third legislative package, and I urge you in the strongest terms to include meaningful relief for our small businesses and their employees.”
Acknowledging the unprecedented uncertainty, the Mayor says, “We are in uncharted waters, trying to navigate through an unprecedented global crisis. What is clear is that this is not a time for half-measures – we must pursue bold solutions to give our businesses a fighting chance.”