Main Street As We Know It May Never Recover From Coronavirus

8th Avenue in Sunset Park's Chinatown before the pandemic struck. Ana Lucia Murillo/Bklyner
8th Avenue in Sunset Park’s Chinatown before the pandemic struck. Ana Lucia Murillo/Bklyner

“Longterm, we could see the complete collapse of our small business infrastructure that has supported our neighborhoods for generations,” Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Peers said in a report on the coronavirus’ impact on local businesses so far.

Small businesses have been struggling due to coronavirus, in some cases since February, when fears of coronavirus slowed business in New York’s Chinatowns before there was even one confirmed case in the city.

Fast forward to less than a month later, and Governor Cuomo has closed all non-essential businesses. Grocery stores have long lines, but restaurants and bars are only able to do take-out or delivery. Congress is in the midst of approving a bill that would provide over $350 billion in loans and other financial support to small businesses across the country.

A report by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce called the COVID-19 Initial Economic Report, came out less than a week ago and outlines what the chamber has heard from its members so far. The responses from small business owners in our borough show people who are really concerned about making rent, concerned about a huge drop-off in customers, and needing to lay off workers.

Here are some of the issues that the chamber is flagging:

  • “Most restaurants will lose a huge percentage of revenue, even with the option to offer delivery. For a restaurant that is more of a destination, only about 20% of their business is delivery and they have to determine if that can cover the cost to operate or they need to shut down.”
  • “Businesses have already seen as much as 50% drop in revenue. This is much higher for hospitality, entertainment, catering, and hotels. We expect restaurants and bars to be higher now that they are all closed to the public.”
  • “Many businesses have already let go part-time employees. They are holding onto full-time employees for as long as they can.”
  • “Concern in downtown Brooklyn that national anchors will close.”
  • “Translation services are needed for the governmental notices.”
  • “Nonprofits are being affected by loss of volunteers, supplies, private funding and are all concerned about what will happen with government grants.”

You can read the full report here.

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is collecting information from its members through a Google Form and the chamber’s mobile app, and also through regular meetings with members. The chamber will be updating the report regularly throughout the crisis.

This is only a snapshot of what our borough’s businesses are facing already. Time will tell how much harder this will get.

If you’d like to support small businesses, you can buy gift cards from local restaurants and shops to use once they open back up. Some local businesses have online stores where you can shop. We have also been posting daily stories about local businesses you can support by ordering takeout and delivery in different neighborhoods.

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Ana Lucia Murillo

Ana Lucia is a reporter and covers the Latinx community in Brooklyn. Questions & tips: amurillo@bklyner.com

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