“I just couldn’t watch,” owner Parul Patel said. “It’s too painful.”
Patel’s family owned the store for 34 years. It has been an iconic part of New York’s music and arts scene for decades.
“This pandemic was something that just wasn’t something we could overcome,” Parul said.
More than 100,000 small businesses in the United States closed in April due to COVID-19, laying off thousands of employees.
A new stimulus bill is being negotiated in the Senate, but for Patel, it is too late.
“One thing the government could have done to prevent someone like us from shutting down, along with other businesses, is a rent freeze. It would have been very, very powerful, ”she said.
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In Harlem, Safari restaurant owner Mona Birjeeb said revenue was down 90%.
Birjeeb says the only reason her restaurant is still open is because her owner hasn’t kicked her out.
“I’ll stay open until my landlord comes to me and says, hey, you either have to pay me or you have to go.” But until then, I’ll do whatever I can to stay. It’s my dream, it’s my life and it’s my community, ”she said.
Forty-one percent of black business owners have closed during the pandemic, most of all groups, and more than a third of immigrant business owners have also closed.
Birjeeb applied for several loans, but says she only received one for $ 5,000. It doesn’t even cover a month’s rent.
“Being black and an immigrant is even more difficult. Resources are very limited. So it’s a real struggle, not to be just a small business and to be black. On top of that, you’re an immigrant, and you’re a woman on top of that. So it’s not easy, ”said Birjeeb.
The iconic Sylvia is one of Harlem’s largest minority employers.
Dining at the neighborhood institution is a rite of passage for celebrities and presidents.
To date, owner Tre’ness Woods-Black says only 30 of their 117 employees have returned to work.
“When the nation bleeds, Harlem bleeds,” Woods-Black said. “Everything concerns us. So if we are in a community with a large number of unemployed, where does the spending come from? ”
Before the pandemic, half of Americans in the U.S. private sector were employed by small businesses. Since then, the hospitality industry has suffered the brunt of the economic hardship.
“I don’t know what’s in the stimulus package, but if it doesn’t include a specific amount, a significant amount for the restaurant industry, then shame on America,” Woods-Black said.