As the nation endures another surge of COVID-19, New York State has implemented increasingly strict precautions to help contain the spread of the virus.
In a Manhattan press conference on Nov. 11, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a mandatory closing of gyms, bars and restaurants from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily. These venues were chosen because they were identified as the main sources of new positive test results. The newly imposed restrictions went into effect on Nov. 13, one day after New York state reached a total of 545,762 positive cases.
Local businesses are already experiencing the effects of these new regulations, as cutting hours has led to a decrease in revenue. Jay Pisculli, 39, of Binghamton and executive chef and co-owner of Social on State, expressed disappointment with the impacts these regulations have had on his business’ earnings.
“In general, it’s negatively impacted our business because our income has decreased, ” Pisculli said. “We are unsure of how to staff properly because we do not know whether or not we are going to be busy. It also makes it a lot more difficult to buy products.”
Pisculli is not the only one who has expressed discontent with the financial impact these restrictions have had on businesses. According to the New York Times, New York City, specifically, is facing a “financial abyss.” Businesses have begun turning to the state government for financial assistance — as they did in the first wave of the virus — with no success.
“Initially small businesses, like ours, were offered a [Payroll Protection Program (PPP)] loan, which was helpful to get through the first few months of the pandemic,” Pisculli said. “However, there has been no financial assistance offered by the state since then for the lost revenue. Hopefully, something else will be passed eventually.”
With no financial assistance from the state government, business owners are becoming increasingly concerned about the fate of their businesses. However, the city of Binghamton is making efforts to help. Binghamton Mayor Richard David announced on Nov. 18 that a new round of direct rent, utility and overhead assistance will be available for small businesses that contain 50 or fewer employees in the city of Binghamton. The financial assistance will be effective immediately.
“In Binghamton, these federal relief dollars will go directly to benefit small businesses that have fallen on hard times because of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession,” David said. “Small businesses provide the local jobs and services that will fuel our community’s economic comeback, and they deserve our support.”
As of Nov. 29, Broome County has had 5,034 confirmed COVID-19 cases in total. These numbers are projected to increase in the upcoming months due to the holiday season and the cold weather. With the rise in cases, some local businesses are trying to be understanding of Cuomo’s new restrictions. Hannah Deane, 28, of Binghamton and manager at Garage Taco Bar, sees the logic behind these regulations but believes they are doing more harm than good.
“Personally, I understand where Cuomo is coming from in terms of trying to keep people from drinking too much too late and lowering their guard,” Deane said. “However, it hurts local businesses more than it actually helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, in my opinion.”
Similarly, Binghamton University students are wrestling with these newly imposed guidelines. Gabriela Arreaga-Rusnaczyk, a junior majoring in art and design, said she believes New York needs stricter guidelines to avoid a surge in positive cases.
“I am struggling to see the logic behind Cuomo’s new regulations,” Arrega-Rusnaczyk said. “The virus is not nocturnal. It can infect at any hour of the day. If we really want to see numbers go down, we are going to have to resort to completely closing indoor dining for at least a month.”
Victoria Maffei, a junior majoring in biology, said she stood by Cuomo’s decision to close businesses from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. daily.
“It makes sense,” Maffei said. “Bars and restaurants tend to experience a surge in customers past 10 p.m. If we can prevent the gathering of people at the later hours of the day while simultaneously allowing businesses to remain up and running, then so be it.”
With the rise of COVID-19 cases across the nation comes the possibility of even stricter guidelines for gyms, bars and restaurants in the near future. Despite the toll this may have, Erika Dickinson, 27, of Binghamton and general manager at Dos Rios Cantina, is remaining hopeful, as she is confident that her business will continue to thrive as it did during the onset of the pandemic.
“During the first wave, it was pretty good,” Dickinson said. “Takeout was booming, and customers were very supportive. It will likely be very similar during the second wave. People really want to support local businesses right now. There will be a lot of support from the people that are in this area, whether that be the locals or students.”