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Sunnyside Business Owners Rally for Help to Get Through Pandemic

Brent O’Leary, candidate for City Council, holds a rally Tuesday calling on government officials to produce a plan to help businesses get through the pandemic (Photo: Queens Post)

Dec. 16, 2020 By Christian Murray

A group of Sunnyside business owners joined together on Queens Boulevard Tuesday to call on elected officials to help them get through the pandemic.

The business owners, representing bars and restaurants on Skillman Avenue and Queens Boulevard, said that they need relief as their revenue shrinks yet costs remain high. They said that the closure of indoor dining, which went into effect Monday, is likely to put many local restaurants out of business.

“We need some help from the government,” said Niall Costello, co-owner of Claret Wine Bar on Skillman Avenue. “We are down to four days a week, have minimum staff…and we are trying to keep them employed.”

He added that the winter months are not easy in the best of times for bars and restaurants—let alone with the shutdown.

“January, February and March are tough months in the restaurant business anyway without a pandemic,” Costello said. “In winter it’s tough with 100 percent indoor dining—with none it’s impossible.”

Other business owners discussed how they have had little choice but to let employees go and are struggling to cover hefty fixed costs such as insurance and rent.

Brent O’Leary, who is running for the 26th Council seat and organized the rally, said that small businesses were already facing a crisis before the pandemic hit.

“This is a crisis on top of crisis,” he said. “Businesses were already dealing with skyrocketing rents,” O’Leary said, adding that “they are now being asked to pay those rents while being shut down.”

O’Leary said that the business owners need rent relief, government grants and additional funding through the Payment Protection Plan, a federal program used to help business owners pay their employees.

He said that the city council also needs to pass the Small Business Job Survival Act, which provides brick-and-mortar businesses with 10-year leases and the right to renew.

O’Leary said that small businesses are unfairly bearing the brunt of the crisis, as they are still required to pay full rent despite the severe restrictions. He said that landlords need to share the hardship by providing relief.

Nick Murphy, co-owner of Bar 43, said that some restaurants were able to get by with indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, while the weather was good.

“To get rid of 25 percent [indoor dinning capacity] and expect us to operate in the rain, wind and the snow—it’s impossible,” Murphy said.

Murphy said that government officials have been expecting a second COVID-19 wave for months and that a plan should have been in place. “We shouldn’t be out here begging for help today. They should have had a plan.”

Meanwhile, Peter Maguire, co-owner of the Wild Goose on Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside, said that the bar and restaurant industry was being treated unfairly. He said that when he goes into the supermarket or Home Depot nobody asks to check for his temperature or provide contact information. He said the restrictions were too severe.

Czarinna Andres, who formerly owned Bings Hallmark on Greenpoint Avenue and now co-owns the Queens Post, said that covering payroll is a big worry, particularly when rent is high. She said that government officials need to come up with a plan to help all brick-and-mortar stores.

Meanwhile, Sofia Moncayo, owner of Glory MMA on 47th Street, said that many small businesses in Sunnyside and Woodside are operated by long-time residents and need the community’s help.

“They are owned, run and staffed by families, neighbors and friends,” she said. “They support community events.”

Moncayo, who helps run the food pantry at Mosaic Church in Sunnyside, said that many local businesses have been donating food, which helps feed thousands of people per week..

She urged residents to spend at least $25 per week on local eateries to help keep them going. “This will produce revenue that will help many of them keep their lights on– as opposed to seeing them shut their doors.”

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Click for Comments 
Zoe Morsette

Those of us who rent commercial studio space are having a very tough time, as well. Without a studio, I cannot make a living, but with all live entertainment shut down, there’s no work. My commercial landlord has given us no breaks, and even continued to collect payment for trash pickup when almost NO ONE was in the building during the first several months of the pandemic. Many, many artists have given up their studios here in LIC, and it’s really heartbreaking. Without affordable studio space, we cannot survive.

The truth

The food bank is a phoney…..maybe one out of ten is deserving….please watch the cars that park on 47 street …brand new or late model…I phones..100 dollar sneakers…..neighbors with houses that they paid over a million in cash taking boxes of food…yes its true. Stop the BS


There’s no one to blame for the indoor dining shut down but the people who don’t wear masks, who had their big thanksgiving gatherings, who don’t follow guidelines, and the people who think COVID is a conspiracy, they’re the ones you can all thank for losing your jobs and homes!


The people to blame for the shut down are the politicians… ordering the shut down! Rebel and stay open! If you want to shut down stay home while other people carry on.


The snow and cold is also going to cause issues for a while. However, you can make some good money shoveling old people’s homes and driveways.


Well this is what happens when most of the only people you were feeding for free during the first wave were working doctors, nurses and healthcare workers for a selfie and a like on IG and FB. Many do not care now because we are all struggling and those that do either moved out nyc, are trying to save money or prefer to donate and post pictures of a food bank.

Aaron C Brown

Always dreamed of living in Sunnyside off Queens Blvd I’m a disabled Veteran and i support you folks wish i lived there


The cause of this is not Covid. It’s from government power to shut down businesses (reaction to covid). Your rights dont end when the government fears you into submission. Open up, wear a mask when needed and get on with your lives.


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