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NYC Restaurant Group Blasts Mayor's Restaurant Recovery Plan As 'Predatory,' Says Administration Hasn't Done Enough

Mayor Bill de Blasio

The New York City Hospitality Alliance railed at City Hall’s plan aimed at helping restaurants recover — particularly restaurants in communities of color — after Mayor Bill de Blasio provided an update on the program's progress during a Thursday press conference.

New York City Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie said the administration is not doing enough to help struggling restaurants and said the incentives provided through the Restaurant Revitalization Program, announced in June, are "predatory."

The program provides certain restaurants with up to $30K over six to 12 weeks to pay their workers if restaurants commit to paying their employees $20 per hour and providing free meals to the community.

“It’s been nearly six months since New York City restaurants were mandated to shutdown indoor dining, and Mayor de Blasio still does not have a reopening plan, even though the rest of the state has been dining indoors since June,” Rigie said in the statement. “It’s predatory for the de Blasio Administration to dangle short-term monetary support to restaurants in deep distress, if they agree to long-term policies that pose significant financial liability.” 

The New York City restaurant industry is in a dire situation, especially without indoor dining. Many restaurants and bars have closed permanently amid the statewide shutdown beginning in March. 

In his press conference Thursday, de Blasio said the program has provided $2.3M to restaurants across the city, particularly those in the 27 hardest-hit neighborhoods. Out of the nearly 100 restaurants that received funding, 71% were in communities of color and owned by women or people of color, he said. Nearly 87,000 free meals were provided to the community by restaurants in the program as well, he said. 

“[The program will] help restaurants in communities of color to survive and keep employing people in their communities and keep their cultures alive,” de Blasio said. “This is a great example of doing something good in the midst of this crisis.”

Rigie specifically took issue with the administration's partnership with the One Fair Wage Campaign — a coalition that lobbies for an increased minimum wage for tipped workers and wage theft protection, according to its website. Rigie claims the coalition is pushing for changes the restaurant industry largely does not support.

“His administration has found time to partner with a controversial group to push their misleading wage campaign that’s been overwhelmingly rejected by restaurant owners and workers,” Rigie said. 

De Blasio’s office did not respond with comment by the time of publication.

The movement behind reopening indoor dining reached a fever pitch this week. Indoor dining in the city was supposed to resume in June, in accordance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to reopen New York. New York City remains the only area of the state that is not allowed to open its doors to patrons inside. Neighboring New Jersey is set to reopen indoor dining Friday.

Cuomo has cited his belief that there is not sufficient enforcement of social distancing and safety within the city as a reason behind delaying indoor dining. There is little proof to back this claim, Politico reported in July. 

New York City restaurant owners filed a $2B lawsuit, claiming the state violated their constitutional rights by refusing to allow them to open. 

City Council Speaker Cory Johnson came out in support of a plan for indoor dining reopening Wednesday. 

“It’s time to allow indoor dining in New York City with reduced capacity and clear guidance to ensure social distancing and safety,” he said in a release. 

De Blasio said on Wednesday that the city and state should provide restaurants with clearer guidance and direction in September. He also said he is considering extending outdoor dining past Oct. 31. 

Cuomo implied that restaurants would not open until he saw enforcement and compliance improve in the city, the New York Post reported Thursday.

“I agree with the speaker, I would like to see the restaurants open,” Cuomo told the Post. “However, there is a but … the but is our rules and guidance on reopening is only as good as the compliance and the enforcement.”