Small Businesses Hopeful ‘Open Storefronts’ Will Help Keep Holiday Shopping Local

Small Businesses Hopeful ‘Open Storefronts’ Will Help Keep Holiday Shopping Local

The Mayor announced today that he would be expanding allowances for New York City’s non-restaurant businesses. The new Open Storefronts program, in effect from October 30th to December 31st, will allow retailers to utilize the curb space in front of their ground-level stores, or curb space if they’re part of an Open Streets program.

The addition comes as temperatures continue to cool, and as seasonal markets begin to open outdoors as well.

Executive Director of the Park Slope Fifth Avenue BID, Mark Caserta, says that the timing is perfect.

“Having extra space to use during the holiday season is critical for small businesses. It gives them a chance to survive during these difficult times while maintaining a safe, socially distanced shopping experience that protects their customers and staff, alike,” Caserta said. Despite the colder weather, businesses will not be permitted to use heaters outdoors.

Meredith Jacks, who owns Brooklyn ARTery in Ditmas Park, is looking forward to the program.

“We’re definitely trying to figure out how to navigate the upcoming holiday season. For me, as a gift shop, that’s a huge part of our year. I had been hoping that this exact thing would happen,” Jacks said.

Businesses who participate will be required to leave at least eight feet of sidewalk for pedestrians to pass through, and be at least three feet away from any adjacent restaurants. The new program does not allow for the performance of “personal services” like haircuts or other cosmetology and prohibits amplified sound.

Guidelines for the new program. Courtesy of NYC Gov.

Wanderlustre on Court Street, owned by Kathryn Ivanfy, will also be participating in the increased options for handling a busy holiday season.

“I think it’ll be great. Some people are hesitant to go indoors at all so if we can catch them on the sidewalk that would be even better. Especially with the holiday season, I’ve been concerned about how to control crowds. We are a gift store and it tends to get really busy in December and get jam-packed, but obviously, we’re going to have to control the flow during this season. Being outside would be super helpful,” Ivanfy said.

For some restaurants, this new program may mean a bit of a change. As part of the Open Restaurants program, small businesses were allowed to lend their space to adjacent restaurants, with written permission. Now that they may be able to use the space themselves, this may be revoked by some business owners. These issues will likely be handled on a case-by-case basis, depending on the hours of operation and the necessity.

According to the Mayor’s release today, the program is set to impact 40,000 businesses and roughly 450,000 employees.

“I’m glad that we are building on the momentum of our open streets and restaurants, to transform our streets for people and give a lifeline to local businesses,” said Council Member Brad Lander.

Vanessa Raptopoulos, the owner of Awesome Brooklyn in PLG,  has her doubts.

“It’s kind of weird. I mean, I feel like it’s great, but I can’t really put merchandise out on Flatbush Avenue without staffing someone to stand outside with it. Also, it would’ve been really great if we had done that all summer. It just seems like really weird timing,” she said, adding that she’s happy for the opportunity, just not quite sure how it’ll work for Awesome yet.

Lauren Collins, the Executive Director of the Flatbush and Church Avenue BIDs, says that her organizations had been fighting for this idea for months.

“Finally, an open market to go along with the City’s open restaurants. NYC is coming back,” she said.

More information on the program can be found here.