Backlash on de Blasio plan for restaurants

Covers only 100 eateries, and owners must commit to higher wages

TRD New York /
Jun.June 11, 2020 05:02 PM
Andrew Rigie and Bill de Blasio (Twitter, Getty, iStock)

Andrew Rigie and Bill de Blasio (Twitter, Getty, iStock)

Mayor Bill de Blasio will have to put off patting himself on the back for his plan to assist 100 family-owned restaurants: The eateries main trade group is denouncing it.

The New York City Hospitality Alliance blasted the mayor’s plan for tying aid to a wage increase that restaurants oppose. The group had beaten back a push for the higher wage, which was led by an interest group.

“It’s shocking that the administration is pushing the political agenda of the controversial Restaurant Opportunities Center by dangling short-term monetary relief to financially devastated restaurants in exchange for long-term financial disaster, by forcing them to sign on to their misleading wage campaign,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement.

The mayor announced the plan Thursday, nearly three months into a ban on dining that has left restaurants with two options: close or try to survive on takeout orders.

“Family-owned restaurants are in trouble. They were hurting before Covid. They’re hurting even more now,” de Blasio said in a tweet. “We are going to do everything we can to save them.”

The Restaurant Revitalization Program will steer $3 million to 100 of the 27,000 restaurants across the city, with a focus on those in communities of color, but it comes with a string attached — the wage hike.

To participate, restaurants will have to pay staff a subsidized wage of $20 an hour, not including tips, while their business is affected by the pandemic. However, within five years of the program ending, participating eateries will have to provide workers a $15 minimum wage before tips.

In addition, workers at restaurants in the program are eligible for a one-time cash payment of $500 and 53,000 free meals will be provided to those who eat at the establishments.

Twitter users replied to the mayor’s tweets with a chorus of calls for him to resign, as they have been doing since clashes between the NYPD and protesters began early this month. They also expressed support for other ways to help restaurants, notably by expanding outdoor seating.

De Blasio did announce earlier this month that outdoor dining may become a reality sooner than expected. Adopting an initiative championed by the City Council, the mayor would allow restaurants to spill out into the streets during stage two of reopening.

The Council and mayor previously enacted other temporary measures targeted at restaurants, including one that temporarily bars landlords from going after the personal assets of restaurant and store owners who break their leases during the pandemic.

Despite such policies, restaurants fear that many of them won’t survive, especially as their seating capacity will be limited for a while upon reopening.

Contact Sasha Jones at [email protected]


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