By KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — As restaurants attempt to restabilize during the coronavirus pandemic, the addition of outdoor dining and curbside cocktail takeaway has provided an avenue for success at some establishments fighting to keep the lights on.
In New York City, a council member released a plan Monday that seeks to extend that help to hard-hit bars and restaurants in the coming months.
The plan by council member Keith Powers, “Open for Business: Saving our small businesses post-COVID,” proposes the permanent extension of outdoor dining to help small businesses in jeopardy of permanent closure.
Other proposals in the plan include allowances for emergency measures on takeaway cocktails and delivery rules, as well as emergency rent relief for stores that have long been shuttered due to the pandemic.
Powers says he’s calling on the entire council and and state legislature to “take action in the meantime rather than waiting for federal dollars to show up.”
While he recognizes the obvious fiscal challenges and looming deficits, Powers says that support of small businesses will be instrumental in “the bounce-back of the city’s economy.”
“New York City is defined by our neighborhood businesses, but they won’t be open if we don’t take measures immediately to save them,” Powers told ABC News. “Our report spotlights actionable items that we can take to help them starting today. From the local pizza spot to the neighborhood bar, we need go rescue our cherished local businesses.”
Powers said two existing measures have “brought new life to the city” since the arrival of the pandemic in March: outdoor dining and takeout and delivery service, both of which he wants to extend permanently.
“[Outdoor dining] has allowed New Yorkers to enjoy their favorite establishments and socialize in a safe and healthy manner,” the plan says. “It has also provided an essential way to keep our favorite restaurants, bars, and cafes in business. New York should learn lessons from this moment and extend outdoor dining permanently.”
The city’s Open Restaurants program for outdoor dining and roadway seating — in streets and parking spots — was recently extended until Oct. 31 after it was previously set to expire Sept. 8, according to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“We hope this extension helps restaurants not only recoup the expense so many have made in building roadway dining installations, but also helps because indoor dining has been postponed indefinitely,” the New York City Hospitality Alliance said in a press release.
Powers is urging local leaders to work with other city agencies in order to establish criteria for a long-term program.
He also hailed the importance of takeaway and delivery programs, which he hailed as “a lifeline” for bars and restaurants.
“It highlighted the archaic Alcohol Beverage Control Law (ABC) that places restrictions on the items that can be delivered. In the earliest phases, the State Liquor Authority’s (SLA) relaxation of the rules on takeout and delivery played a role in helping businesses reopen, rehire, and restart,” Powers’ plan says. “The temporary lifting of restrictions should be extended.”
The plan also suggests an assistance program that would suspend the commercial rent tax, a levy on Manhattan businesses below 96th Street, during the remainder of the COVID-19 state of emergency.
“In New York City, rent poses a unique challenge for small businesses compared to other parts of the country,” the proposal says. “Congress should allocate federal stimulus funding to the city so that we could create a rental assistance program to address the issue of the exorbitant rent burden our small businesses have faced.”
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