Cohen legislation to waive fees for sidewalk cafes

Congressman Espaillat At VCJC Breakfast|Congressman Espaillat At VCJC Breakfast
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While businesses are suffering financially, wondering how they will pay rent next week and eagerly awaiting stimulus checks, one elected official is trying to ease the load on their shoulders.

Councilman Andrew Cohen, chair of the City Council Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing, will introduce legislation at the first ever virtual city council meeting on April 22 to waive all sidewalk cafe fees for the remainder of 2020, including revocable consent and licensing fees. Businesses are required to have a sidewalk cafe license and revocable consent to operate a portion of a restaurant on a public sidewalk and pay related fees.

The bill will require the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection to waive and refund all fees related to sidewalk cafe licenses due on or after Jan. 1, until Dec. 31, due to the coronavirus pandemic. As part of a city council COVID-19 legislative relief package, the measure will provide relief to small businesses confronting massive revenue losses and unprecedented financial challenges so that they’ll have the opportunity to thrive in the future.

“New York’s small businesses are facing an existential crisis,” Cohen said. “Businesses across the city are operating on razor-thin margins and struggling just to keep workers on payroll and stay afloat. Business owners should not have to pay thousands of dollars in sidewalk cafe fees when they’re not able to utilize these spaces and limiting operations to delivery and takeout in support of necessary social distancing measures. This is something the city can do right now to help our cash-strapped restaurants, bars, and nightlife industry survive this crisis.”

Suspending these fees will help business owners in the short term and will give them one less thing to worry about when the economy does reopen. The council will work to fast-track the legislation and has tentatively scheduled a committee hearing for the bill for early May.

Lisa Sorin, president of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce praised Cohen for his efforts to aid the ailing businesses.

 “The Bronx Chamber firmly supports anything that will alleviate costs and help our businesses get back on their feet,” Sorin said. “Some of our restaurants will not survive this crisis. The city has to do more to help and waiving this cost is a step in the right direction.”