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February 12th, 2021

Andrew Yang: ‘Bars and restaurants need to be at the center of New York’s recovery plans’

**RELEASE** February 12th, 2021

New York, NYToday, Andrew Yang, Democratic Candidate for Mayor of New York City, called on the City and State to take action on a number of  measures aimed at saving New York City’s restaurants, bars and nightlife venues that have been crushed by COVID-19.

According to a recent report by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, 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.

Said Andrew Yang, “Restaurants and bars are not just the cultural and social lifeblood of New York City, but an invaluable economic engine, accounting for hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, in tax revenue, economic activity, jobs, tourism and beyond. By not removing the bureaucratic weights holding these businesses back, we are failing them. Bars and restaurants need to be at the center of New  York’s recovery plans.

“There are several measures we can take right now that could provide relief overnight to countless small businesses, including temporary halting the commercial rent tax and converting the sales tax collected by bars and restaurants into grants for struggling businesses. The cost of these measures to the City and State’s bottom line shouldn’t be taken lightly, but will pale in comparison to the devastation we will face in the long run if we continue hemorrhaging small business jobs at the rate we have been. We need to think long term.

“We need Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act immediately. Any stimulus package that doesn’t include restaurant relief will be a massive failure, especially in cities like New York where food service is the bedrock of countless local communities.

“And of course, no real recovery is possible without equitable and accelerated vaccine distribution. Now that restaurant workers can access the vaccine, we must ensure that the City is a true partner with business owners to get workers access. Sixty percent of NYC restaurant workers are immigrants, and access to the already-opaque system with the help of trusted community partners and clergy to encourage trust and ease of sign up is essential.”

Yang is also echoing calls by NYC Hospitality Alliance and Center for an Urban Future to help generate revenue for restaurants and bars while facilitating safe practices, including:

  • 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: Now is not the time to leverage taxes on the backs of struggling businesses and the Commercial Rent Tax hurts businesses rebounding from the global pandemic, placing a 3.9% surcharge on rent exceeding a certain threshold for Manhattan businesses south of 96th Street.
  • Provide PPE to all restaurants free of charge and prioritize hospitality workers for the COVID-19 vaccine: We cannot ask those in the hospitality industry to work unless they are safe. It is time to put words into action, showing our essential workers in the hospitality industry how essential they are to our economic rebound.
  • Buy regulated hardware, such as outdoor heaters, dividers and air filtration systems, in bulk and sell them to local businesses: Many restaurants could not afford the unexpected expense of outdoor heaters, dividers and air filtration systems as they adapted to the world around them. 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. The city should work with the FDNY to streamline applications and adjust regulations while continuing to prioritize safety.
  • Incentivize owners of vacant storefronts to “lend” their outdoor vacant spaces to adjacent businesses: Yang supports Tim Tompkins’ of the Times Square Alliance proposal to capitalize on the good will business owners showed one another, such as  non-restaurant businesses lending their curb space to their neighborhood restaurants, and provide a system to streamline this goodwill so that it is increased and the lenders are protected. Yang proposes that The City should institute a 150% current or future tax credit to the landlord “lending” their space, meaning that a landlord would receive a 45-day-value-tax credit for a 30-day lease.

Lastly, Yang is backing long-term solutions to keep and maintain New York City’s restaurant and nightlife thriving, in a post-pandemic world, including:

  • Making the cap on delivery fees permanent: A Yang administration would expand on the City Council’s emergency efforts to reduce burdens on restaurants limiting the fee to 20% (15% commission and 5% of other fees) until 90 days after the resumption of indoor dining. This legislation should be further extended, as restaurants typically have margins in the 10% range and these fees were already unmanageable.

Said Andrew Yang, “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.”

  • Making outdoor dining a permanent fixture of our neighborhoods: Over 10,000 New York City restaurants participated in outdoor dining, saving over 100,000 jobs in the industry. As Mayor, Yang will seek to update the City Code to ensure this measure, giving businesses owners not only another source of revenue, but also fostering a stronger sense of neighborhood community.
  • Work with the Governor’s Office to permanently relax the executive order restricting carry-out or delivered alcohol: Easing these restrictions was a lifeline for bars throughout the city, 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.

For more information on Andrew Yang’s small business plan, click here.


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