Economy ∙ Culture ∙ Small Business
A Strong Recovery for NYC Restaurants, Bars and Eating Establishments
The last year has been tough for almost all businesses, but New York’s world class restaurants, bars and nightlife have been hit especially hard. In an audit conducted by the State Comptroller, the next year could see as many as one-third of New York City’s bar and restaurants close, resulting in the loss of as many as 12,000 city restaurant jobs and 159,000 industry jobs. The City must remove obstacles for these industries wherever possible and commit to clear regulations with open-line of communications to support businesses reopening as effortlessly as possible.
Call for immediate federal relief for restaurants.
As an immediate measure, Andrew Yang also supports calls from the industry, including the NYC Hospitality Alliance to pass the bipartisan federal RESTAURANTS Act of 2021 to bring much needed funds to foodservice businesses.
Yang also supports proposals to help generate revenue for restaurants and bars while facilitating safe practices. To that end he stands with the NYC Hospitality Alliance in calling for the following proposals:
Convert Sales Tax collected by restaurants and bars into grants.
This temporary measure is a necessary way to get cash into the hands of businesses who desperately need it. The city should agree to forego sales tax collected by eating and drinking establishments until the state of emergency is lifted.
Halt the Commercial Rent Tax.
Commercial rent tax is an effective 3.9% surcharge on rent exceeding a certain threshold for Manhattan businesses south of 96th St. Now is not the time to leverage taxes on the backs of struggling businesses.
Provide PPE to all restaurants free of charge and prioritize hospitality workers for the COVID-19 vaccine.
PPE saves lives and is a crucial way to keep workers and customers safe. We cannot ask those in the hospitality industry to work unless they are safe.
Buy regulated hardware — such as outdoor heaters, dividers and air filtration systems — in bulk and then sell them to local businesses.
There has been a lot of confusion about which heaters to buy, and the market in general has been tight. Many restaurants could not afford the unexpected expense. By buying complying heaters, or other hardware that is subject to City regulations, in bulk and providing them at a reduced cost to restaurants, NYC can help those small businesses expand their offerings. For example, Washington D.C. spent $4 million on a program to help restaurants winterize their establishments to great effect. Furthermore, the certification and regulations around outdoor heaters are a major obstacle for restaurants to partake in outdoor dining. The city should work with the FDNY to streamline applications and adjust regulations while continuing to prioritize safety.
Incentivize creative space usage amongst commercial neighbors.
Throughout the pandemic, some retailers and other establishment owners who did not have use for the outdoor space in front of their businesses, lent their curb space to their neighborhood restaurants. We should capitalize on this good will and provide a system to streamline this lending so that it is increased and the lenders are protected. Andrew Yang supports Tim Tompkins’ of the Times Square Alliance proposal to incentivize owners of vacant storefronts to “lend” their outdoor vacant spaces to adjacent businesses, such as restaurants. Tompkins suggests the “city should institute a 150% current or future tax credit to the landlord “lending” the space, meaning that a landlord would receive a 45-day-value-tax credit for a 30-day lease. In order to facilitate transactions, the city should work with a landlord group to develop a temporary sublease that addresses the kinds of standard concerns that come up about liability, electricity use, and insurance.” In addition, sublessors should have the right to charge rent as part of these leases so that both retail establishments can benefit from the increased activity as we all work to pull out of this crisis together.
Immediately renew all licenses and permits.
As discussed above, we must cut red tape and reduce regulatory burdens on all small businesses. That is why a Yang administration will immediately renew all licenses and permits for the first year of its administration to make it possible for business owners to focus on running their business, not dealing with city bureaucracy.
Build upon the outdoor dining momentum.
One major success in an otherwise miserable year was our great experiment with outdoor dining. Over 10,000 restaurants participated in outdoor dining (which the city estimated has saved over 100,000 jobs), and many New Yorkers reported that adding tables to sidewalks and parking spaces helped foster a stronger sense of neighborhood community. In September, the Mayor announced the program will be extended permanently and year round. We strongly support this initiative and will update the city code to ensure this measure is a permanent fixture of our neighborhoods.
Advocate the state loosen restrictions on carry-out alcohol beverages.
Another success during the pandemic was to-go cocktails. As mayor, Andrew Yang will work to make Governor Cuomo’s executive order relaxing the state’s restrictions on carry-out or delivered alcohol permanently. Easing these restrictions was a lifeline for bars (which employ almost 16,000 New Yorkers) as well as restaurants. Margins in foodservice are razor-thin, and alcohol sales can make or break a restaurant. Allowing to-go drinks doesn’t mean making NYC the next Bourbon Street. Our administration will continue to enforce existing rules around safety and quality of life while loosening onerous restrictions on small businesses.
Enable restaurants to have ownership of customer data.
In a 21st century economy, data is paramount. But when a customer orders from a local restaurant, their information often does not go to the restaurant, it’s controlled by the third party delivery service. A Yang administration will champion legislation that will require third-party apps to give restaurants ownership of their customer data and analytics. By giving business owners power over their customer base, they will have access to an invaluable tool to control their own fate through improving their marketing and services to consumers.
Support the City Council’s efforts to expand the cap charged by food delivery apps.
A Yang administration will also expand on the City Council’s emergency efforts to reduce burdens on restaurants by making the cap on delivery fees permanent. Food delivery apps have traditionally taken upwards of 30% of an order - that’s money taken away from a local, small business and going straight to another state. As restaurants are forced to shift their business to online ordering, this fee is killing their bottom lines and making it more difficult for them to operate. The City Council passed a bill limiting the fee to 20% (15% commission and 5% of other fees) until 90 days after the resumption of indoor dining. This should be extended even after that time, as restaurants typically have margins in the 10% range and these fees were already unmanageable.
For more ways Andrew Yang will bring back business, see his Relief for Our Small Businesses Plan.