Restaurant rally: Owners say they’ve lived up to expectations and followed the rules

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MIDTOWN MANHATTAN — Hundreds of New York City restaurant owners and employees braved a cold Tuesday morning in Times Square, rallying to have indoor dinning reopened.

“I have sat down with so many of these owners,” Councilman Fernando Cabers said. “They’re in tears.”

Lou Martins is the manager of Bistro Casa Azul.

“This year has been horrible, having to fire people who have been with us for a while,” he said.

Ralliers PIX11 spoke with said the last thing they want is to make New Yorkesr sick, or to get a bad reputation, but claimed data proves restaurants have gone above and beyond and aren’t a main spreader of disease.

State contact tracing data shows 1.4% of recent known coronavirus cases were connected to bars and restaurants.

To express their frustration with the shutdown, restaurant industry members took their frustrations directly to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Midtown office where they brought traffic to a standstill.

“Right now, we’re digging ourselves a hole without any kind of relief,” explained Ruben Rodriguez, owner of Barrio BX.

For Rodriguez and friend Tony Martinez, opening Barrio BX was longtime dream. Their grand opening was initially scheduled for late March. Delayed by COVID-19, they finally welcomed guests this fall

“We were able to have the outside seating and 25% inside, we started to feel a little momentum a lot of people were enjoying the dinning experience here,” Martinez told PIX11 News .

With indoor dinning paused and winter weather arrived, the Barrio BX team secured their outdoor dinning area and added heating. Martinez is determined to keep going, saying he’s “open for takeout, delivery, and of course, catering.”

Lil’ Mo Mozzarella has made it his mission to help restaurants and small businesses since he was quarantined earlier this year.

“I was in my house starving and I was getting worried that all the places that I love were going to go out of business, so I made a hit list of all the spots I was gonna hit,” he said.

Once things opened back up he started visiting all of his favorite spots and posting videos. In just four months, he’s gained almost 30,000 followers.

Now with the latest shutdown, “Mo” is worried some of his favorite spots might not survive the second wave.

“Around the holiday season it’s sad, you know what I mean? So, whatever we can do, if you can do takeout, gift cards, something to help these businesses get a couple dollars in their pocket early on, that’s the right message to spread, at least that’s how I feel.”

City Councilman Justin Brannan agrees, but said customers are not the only one’s who need to step up and help.

“If you have government mandated shutdown, how can you do it without having economic support? It just doesn’t make any sense,” Brannan said.

While the Federal Government gets its act together on a second stimulus bill, there are things the state and local government can do to help.

Brannan suggested waiving fees for all license renewals and permits, and suspending sales tax collections which are due next week.

“Instead of turning it into a tax payment, turn it into a grant, a small grant that the business can keep to try and just stay afloat.”

In the meantime, Brannan has his own social media initiative dubbed the 12 days of takeout. He’s using the hashtag #takeout12 to encourage his constituents help out by ordering out this holiday season.

“Try to order at least one meal a day from one of your favorite local restaurants just to help them hang in there,” Brannan said.

Mo gave it his support.

“I don’t endorse politicians, but I’m gonna definitely use that hashtag and I’m gonna check you out,” Mo said.

Restaurants can use all the help they can get right now. In addition to the ban on indoor dining, outdoor dining will be shutdown starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday because of an approaching nor’easter.

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