Struggling restaurant owners now have an opportunity to apply for reimbursements on behalf of Mayor de Blasio’s new Restaurant Revitalization Program, but conditions might not be optimal.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced yesterday a $3 million program that will support unemployed and underemployed restaurant workers by providing grants of up to $30,000 to subsidize wages of $20 per hour for at least 6 weeks.
“Small businesses across the board, and these mom-and-pop restaurants in particular, were dealing with the rising rents. They were dealing with so many challenges that were making it harder and harder just to keep going each day,” said de Blasio yesterday.
Additionally, the NYC Opportunity and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC partnered with One Fair Wage, a non-profit with the goal of ending subminimum wage for restaurant workers that will offer a one-time cash assistance of $500 for selected restaurants.
“We’ll start by saving 100 restaurants, bringing back roughly 1,000 displaced restaurant workers at $20 per hour and providing 50,000 free meals to those communities hit hardest by COVID-19,” First Lady Chirlane McCray explained.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams spoke highly of this new initiative, saying, “It’s great to see Mayor de Blasio heeding our call from the early weeks of this COVID-19 crisis for the need to financially support restaurants that are supporting their neighbors in need, including so many of our essential workers.”
But not everyone is happy about this program- and those people are the ones this program was made for.
Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund Toya Williford slid in a trade-off that all restaurant owners taking part in this program must commit to $15 minimum wage on top of tips within 5 years of returning to regular business.
Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, an association representing restaurants and nightlife venues throughout the five boroughs, found this to be slightly egregious.
“It’s shocking that the Administration is pushing the political agenda of the controversial Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) 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, which has been rejected by restaurant owners and workers throughout the City and State,” he said.
“It’s pay to play politics with an organization that has a very controversial history in the restaurant industry. Like so many who have stepped up to support local restaurants during this crisis, the Administration has also made very important efforts lately but today’s announcement sets restaurants back,” Rigie finished.
In response to this concern, City Hall spokesperson Laura Feyer responded with this comment,
“Restaurants do not have to raise wages to $15 per hour plus tips immediately after the grant period ends, but instead are pledging to work toward that goal within 5 years as the economy recovers. We encourage restaurants to apply at nyc.gov/opportunity,” she said.