Brooklyn businesses need cash grants and rent relief, says Brooklyn Chamber president

Kim Chee, a Korean restaurant in Bay Ridge, closed after 19 years. Photo via Google Maps

What the majority of Brooklyn small businesses need today aren’t necessarily loans, but rent assistance, personal protective equipment and, most importantly, cash grants, said Randy Peers, president and Chief Executive Officer of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

A recent House survey of 233 small businesses showed 53% said they should struggle to stay open over the next three months. Additionally, while 74 percent said the rent relief was very important, 61 percent said their landlords did not offer rent relief.

While Peers said the House is still compiling data on the number of Brooklyn businesses that have been forced to close since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, a restaurant website, New York Eater, has recently detailed 28 restaurants that have gone bankrupt. The number is probably higher than that, since New York Eater has not listed any restaurants in the southern half of the borough.

“We see rent as an almost universal challenge,” said Peers. “Whether it’s Coney Island boardwalk businesses suffocated by a closed amusement park or businesses in Brooklyn Heights whose customers have fled the city, it’s clear that rent relief is needed. urgently.

Peers, speaking to Brooklyn eagle, spoke about the type of businesses that are in greatest difficulty or that have gone bankrupt. Among them are independent fitness centers and yoga studios (as opposed to those operated by chains), entertainment venues such as theaters, and seasonal businesses.

“Some temporary stores that sold ball gowns and communion dresses have closed,” he said, as events such as balls just haven’t happened this year.

Randy Peers, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Brooklyn Eagle file

One of the seasonal businesses named by Peers is Brooklyn Beach Shop in Coney Island, owned by Maya Haddad Miller. “As a seasonal business, we have effectively been frozen since September 2019 and despite the reopening, tourism is absent and general sales have fallen by 80%. Without rent relief, no one can guess who will survive this summer, ”Miller said.

Regarding restaurants, Peers said, “It often depends on how long they’ve been offering take-out and deliveries. If they have offered it since the start of the virus crisis, they are in a better position to survive ”because they have had time to adapt and improve their service.

However, while eating outdoors is a boon to restaurants that have it, it is not an “equal opportunity employer”. If a restaurant is in front of a bus stop or has a very small storefront, it may not be able to set up outdoor chairs and tables, Peers said.

Margaret Barnow is the Founder and CEO of Brooklyn Granola, headquartered in Industry City. Brooklyn Granola is an example of a company that had a rough time at the start of the pandemic, but was then able to profit from changes in the food industry. The company makes granola balls, a type of granola-based snack.

When the pandemic started, “A lot of retailers weren’t reopening,” Barnow said. “They weren’t focusing on the granola snacks, they were focusing on the basics. We survived one day at a time. On top of all this, Barnow herself fell with the virus.

Then, however, many restaurants, which in the past “didn’t see us as a product in a restaurant,” Barnow said, began offering snack boxes that Brooklyn Granola products fit into. Many of these new customers found the company on Instagram. . Some of them have started to showcase Brooklyn Granola on their own online platforms.

Regarding the needs of Brooklyn businesses in general, “A lot of brick-and-mortar businesses are fighting for the compassion of their owners,” Barnow said. “There is a great struggle going on for the future of commercial leases. “

In addition, she said, the requirements and procedures for Personal Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) loans, especially at the start, were sometimes difficult to understand and the requirements were not easily understood. ceased to change, confusing things for businessmen.

The Coney Island amusement area is closed for the entire season. We see here, through a fence, the Wonder Wheel Park, with the famous Wonder Wheel. Photo: Raanan Geberer / Brooklyn Eagle

Carrie White, owner of GUM Studios, which maintains sound stages in Sunset Park and Long Island City, said her business has a unique set of issues. “We rent large spaces for advertisements, fashion shoots and television,” she said.

The business was closed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. “From October to February, it was one of the worst times for our business. We had 20 people on the payroll and had to cut 10.

“We have lost jobs to London, Paris, Canada and Slovenia,” she said.

The company reopened at 50% capacity when phase four was instituted. While GUM Studios received PPP and EIDL loans, they were not enough. “We were going to install an air conditioning system, but this [the coronavirus] really screwed things up for us, ”White said.

What the business needs now, she says, is a low-cost, low-interest loan of between $ 1 million and $ 2 million. While grants are generally a good idea, she said, “no one is going to give a million dollar grant.”

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