By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
Store owners will be allowed to continue selling goods and displaying merchandise on portions of the sidewalk until Sept. 30 of next year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday, to help businesses stay financially afloat throughout the ongoing pandemic.
Businesses will now also be able to sell pre-packaged food as part of the initiative allowing restaurants to use pavement for take-out orders, under the city’s Open Storefront’s program.
“New York City is going to recover and it’s going to recover due to the amazing spirit, the ingenuity, the drive, the entrepreneurship that is part of the DNA of this place and that is particularly true for our local small businesses,” said de Blasio.
After the coronavirus forced thousands of doors to shutter in the spring, businesses and restaurants, especially those owned by women or New Yorkers of color, have struggled to survive during the ongoing pandemic. A September Yelp report said 97,966 businesses in the country temporarily closed because of the pandemic shut down for good. According to that same report, New York City has seen 11,000 businesses shut down due to the virus with 63% of those businesses reporting they would permanently close, according to CNBC.
Vanessa Rappopoulos, who owns a gift and home decor shop called Awesome Brooklyn in Prospect Lefferts Garden, said the shutdown and following shift to online-only vending was “very difficult.”
“I didn’t really have a web presence… I just had loyal customers that came into my store,” said Rappopoulous added that she spent the bulk of her days building a website, uploading photos and figuring out what merchandise she could get hands on to then sell to potential customers. “Most warehouses were closed and it was very difficult.”
Mayor de Blasio launched the initiative in late October to help local businesses boost profits during the holiday shopping season and was slated to end on Dec. 31. Under the program, sidewalks wider than eight feet and streets closed off to vehicular traffic as part of the city’s Open Restaurants program can be used for seating space, lining up, or displaying goods. Repair stores, dry cleaners, retail shops, and businesses offering persona care services can all apply for a free permit to take part in the program.
Commissioner for the New York City Department of Small Business Services Jonnel Doris, who joined Mayor de Blasio during the extension announcement, urged New Yorkers to do their part in supporting the city’s recovery by shopping local and Washington by granting the city more federal aid and by passing the Restaurant Act. The legislation would create a $120 billion restaurant relief fund to help make up for revenue lost during the pandemic.
“We can’t do it alone,” said Doris. “We need more help from our federal government.”