Thanks to the passage of the Awnings Act, Union Street businesses did not have to pay outstanding fines. The city also imposed a two-year moratorium on sign violations.
Just as they were recovering from one crisis, the coronavirus pandemic struck New York City, again putting mom-and-pop shops in jeopardy of closing their doors.
“I already see stores are closing,” said Ikhwan Rim, president of the Union Street Small Business Association. “They couldn’t pay their rents.
“Before COVID-19, we were struggling,” he added. “But now they can’t pay three months of rent.”
Although many have applied for the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, the program “doesn’t cover everything,” Rim said. Many mom-and-pop stores only have a few employees, and the majority of the loan must be spent on payroll.
“I see a lot of stores being there for 10 to 20 years closing,” he said. “That’s really tough to see.”
Rim, who owns a jewelry store on Union Street, said he’s been fighting with his landlord. He said building owners argue that they need to pay the mortgage too, so commercial tenants need to pay rent.
The small business owner is also worried that despite businesses reopening, “you don’t know if people will come out and shop.”
“When you open, some people have one customer a day,” Rim said. “That means you cannot pay rent, you cannot do anything.
“You would have to close your store or else you’ll be in deep debt,” he added.
He urged government officials to do more to help mom-and-pop shops.
“They say small businesses are the backbone of New York City,” Rim said, “but it’s not happening.”