By Emily Drooby
The coronavirus has taken so much from HoM co-owner Salvatore Forte.
First, he had to temporarily close his Bay Ridge, Brooklyn business — a combination restaurant and retail store. In April, both his mother and father died from the virus.
“It broke me, it really broke me,” he told Currents News.
“I haven’t had a funeral for my parents, to this day,” he added. “I haven’t seen my family to this day. I don’t even know what my father is buried in.”
Being able to put his parents to rest is not his only concern: he’s also worried for the future of his business. Like many, he’s confused by the city’s reopening plan.
“We are doing what we are told, but we are getting mixed messages and it’s so uncertain that we just don’t know what to do and we don’t know where to go and we aren’t getting answers from anyone,” Salvatore said.
On June 17, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the city is on track to hit phase two on Monday, June 21. However, Mayor Bill de Blasio was vague. He called it a “day-to-day discussion.”
De Blasio acknowledged that while the numbers are good right now, they could see a spike over the weekend. He attributed that to both the racial justice protests and the roll out of the phase one reopenings.
Back in Bay Ridge, the unknown is leaving small business owners frustrated at a time when they’re already struggling to get by.
“It’s very stressful because we do have to pay our bills and it’s not easy, so we just want to progress and we just want to move on.” explained store owner Lisa DeLuca. “I just want to get to the next phase and then eventually get to the phase after it.”
She co-owns the Bay Ridge retail store, Charmed by JLM. They’ve managed to stay afloat with online orders, but did take an extra financial hit when their store was robbed back in April.
For small business owners, the concern goes further than not having concrete dates for the re-openings. Many restaurants in the heart of Bay Ridge say they can’t survive on outdoor seating alone.
“What are you going to do if it rains, you can’t bring the people inside?” asked restaurant Anthony Marsillo.
He owns a beloved local restaurant, Gino’s. With the restrictions, he says the most he can fit outside is 10 tables. The restaurant normally seats 175.
“This is a tough time and a lot of small businesses aren’t going to make it through it,” he added. “They’re saying at least 85 percent of restaurants won’t make it.”
He and many of the local business owners are saying concessions from the government like tax breaks, limited in door seating and the start of phase three could make a huge difference.
New York State Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis, has been speaking with business owners and advocating for them to Mayor de Blasio.
“We need to allow the businesses to just open and be responsible, and I think we can trust them to do that,” she said. “And I don’t know why the mayor is holding back so much, particularly when we are seeing such a double standard in this city.”
The double standard she’s referring to? Protests and recent crowds forming on NYC streets all while business owners continue to suffer.