New York, NY – After news to mandate vaccines for customers entering indoor establishments such as restaurants, gyms and entertainment centers, Staten Island business owners are taking the city to court. The group of 14 proprietors calling themselves the Independent Restaurant Owners Association Rescue (IROAR) took to the Supreme Court with a lawsuit against the mandate ordered by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. They say they are arguing for their livelihoods being affected by the vaccine mandate.
The mandate “would severely impact Plaintiff-Petitioner’s business, life savings, and livelihood” the IROAR told SILive. During the pandemic, 76% of Staten Island businesses reported they had a “slight to significant decrease in revenue” and that business had decreased between 26%-50%. A quarter of those respondents reported losing 76%-100% in revenue during that same time. Although many businesses had loans and grants to temporarily save them, such as the Paycheck Protection Program and the Emergency Injury Disaster Loans, they reported the process was often slow and complicated.
In their original letter to Mayor de Blasio about reopening restaurants for indoor dining, the IROAR stated, “Restaurants need to have 100 percent capacity to sustain themselves at three to five percent profit margins… We are some of the hardest working people in America [and] we currently are held to the highest standards in the country.”
At the start of the pandemic in 2020, businesses on the island went from a hundred percent capacity to zero overnight. Though restaurants could still make money through deliveries, places like barbershops, local delis, and more were at a complete loss. Dynasty Convenience, a local deli on the island went from having hundreds of customers flowing in and out everyday to an average of six customers per day.
More than 30 local restaurants and bars had to shut down due to the pandemic. Biagio Settepani, owner of Bruno’s NYC Bakery on Forest Avenue, closed down due to hard times during March, April and May 2020. “The pandemic put a crimp in business. The fact that we were closed here for three months really hurt us,” Biagio told SILive. “But even when we reopened there was no indoor dining allowed, just pickup and delivery. If we didn’t have the bakery, the restaurant alone wouldn’t have survived.”
Another much-loved restaurant on the island, Trattoria Romana in Dongan Hills, closed its doors after a 26 year run. The closure wasn’t due to loss of revenue, but more so the owners felt the capacity limits and constant deliveries due to the pandemic became tedious and they lost the joy of owning it.
Staten Island has a population of 476,143 residents. The number of those vaccinated is currently at 255,642 or 54% of the population. While this mandate will, more than likely, not compare to the beginning of the pandemic there is still a lot of fear surrounding a significant loss of revenue. Many residents of the island are already protesting the mandate including teachers, healthcare workers, business owners, and more.