New York’s Restaurant Owners Finally Get Some Good News

Hart’s, in Brooklyn, is just one of about a million restaurants we miss. Photo: Scott Heins

With the deadline just days away, City Council has officially extended a measure that’s been allowing restaurant and bar owners to keep the doors open during the pandemic. New York City’s local law 1932-A temporarily suspends the enforcement of the personal liability clauses in commercial leases of COVID-impacted tenants — in other words, landlords haven’t been able to go after restaurant owners’ personal assets if they can’t pay the rent on the businesses they own. But the law, which was introduced in May, was originally only set to be in effect from March 7 (retroactively) until September 30.

As that initial expiration date drew closer, operators were getting increasingly concerned. “It would be a fatal blow to the restaurant industry if they don’t extend it,” Roni Mazumdar, who owns the restaurants Adda, the Masalawala, and Rahi, told Grub way back in July. Rent is not restaurants’ largest expense, but, as Fabián von Hause Valtierra, a co-owner of Contra and Wildair explained, it’s “the only thing that’s a constant burden on the business. If this doesn’t get extended, I think a lot of people will be more willing to close … it’s the one thing allowing people to say, Let’s just push through; let’s see what happens and where we come out of it.”

And now, for once, the news is good: yesterday, City Council voted to extend 1932-A through March 31, 2021. What this actually means for the future of the industry, though, depends largely on what happens in the next several months. “Honestly, I think most of us are fucked either way,” Marie Tribouilloy, a co-owner of Bushwick’s Ops and the owner of Ridgewood’s Forêt, texted Grub earlier this month. “It’s just buying us a little hope when without solid federal help, winter will be the death of all of us.”

Still, it is unequivocally something. The new bill leaves restaurants on the hook for their back rent, but, as Eater NY points out cautiously, it does at least “give them a shot at paying back those sums before the provision expires in six months.”

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