A survey released Monday by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce previews a precarious position for local small businesses that have reopened since the COVID-19 “pause” was partially lifted in New York City.
According to the survey of 233 Brooklyn small businesses in retail, hospitality, health and wellness, manufacturing, arts, entertainment and other industries, 53 percent reported they would struggle to stay open over the next three months.
Twenty-eight percent of small businesses reported that they did not pay rent in July. Sixty-one percent of respondents said their landlords did not offer rent relief, and 74 percent reported that rent relief is “very important” to supporting small businesses.
One factor leading the city’s rent crisis to boil is reduced consumer spending. Forty-three percent of small business owners said that business was “significantly less” during the first week of reopening. When asked what resources besides rent relief can be provided to help small businesses stay open, 84 percent said cash grants are “very important,” and 60 percent said personal protective equipment (PPE) is “very important.”
“We’re seeing rent as an almost universal challenge,” says Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “Whether it is Coney Island boardwalk businesses suffocating from a closed amusement park or Brooklyn Heights businesses whose customers have fled the city, it’s clear that rent relief is urgently needed.”
Peers continues: “Leaders in the small business community, landlords, banks and policymakers need to respond with innovative solutions that provide immediate relief before we plunge any deeper into rent crisis. Everything should be examined from deferring rent payments locally to back stopping mortgages with a federal guarantee.”
“Commercial retail vacancies already plagued the neighborhood before COVID-19,” says Maya Haddad Miller, co-owner of Brooklyn Beach Shop on Coney Island. “As a seasonal business, we’ve been effectively frozen since September 2019 and despite reopening, tourism is absent and general sales have sunk 80 percent. Without rent relief it’s anybody’s guess who will survive this summer.”
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce has been a leading advocate for small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, seeking to alleviate as much of the financial pressures off of local business owners as possible. Through the “Chamber on the Go” initiative, Chamber President and CEO Randy Peers has conducted eight commercial corridor tours since Phase 1 of reopening began in June and has gained valuable insights from local business owners that underscore the survey data.
The Chamber has also raised over $735,000 through the Bring Back Brooklyn Fund, a community fundraising platform that provides small businesses with no-interest loans and grants to purchase PPE equipment. So far, the Bring Back Brooklyn Fund has provided a total of 31 local small businesses with PPE grants totaling $27,000, which will pay for critical equipment like masks, gloves, contactless payment devices and cleaning/sanitization services.