First, look after your family, but then look out for your neighborhood. That’s the message being circulated by the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, which this week began urging residents to keep ordering from the nearly 100 neighborhood restaurants, bakeries and markets in its area on Jamaica Avenue.
“Takeout is the new going out,” said Raquel Olivares, executive director of the Woodhaven BID who has been spearheading a grassroots campaign to keep the food places in her district going during the state of emergency.
The BID represents more than 320 businesses on a 25-block stretch of Jamaica Avenue between Dexter Court and 100th Street.
“Frankly, they’re panicky, with every reason to be so,” Olivares said when asked how merchants on the avenue are handling the virus crisis. “They are struggling to find ways to stay open.”
The BID believes if it can encourage enough people to keep eating from their usual places — out of takeout trays instead of ceramic dishes — most will be able to survive the economic hardship.
Small businesses are expected to be hardest hit by restrictions on public gathering imposed this week by the city and state in an effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“I had to lay off two staff already and cut the shift inside,” said Paul Vasiliadis, owner of the Avenue Diner at 91-06 Jamaica Ave. “You can’t work with a full staff when you lost 60 to 70 percent of your business.”
Vasiliadis said he is luckier than other nearby restaurant owners because he already had a steady takeout and delivery business.
In the first two days of takeout only, he said the outgoing-order business had been “steady.”
“Some people are scared about social distancing with a deliveryman,” said the diner owner. “So I have the guys all wearing masks and gloves.
“I’m trying to keep this place open as long as possible. People rely on us.”
The BID started reaching out earlier this week to the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society and others to help get the word out.
“The restaurants and bakeries are open,” Olivares said. “You can’t sit in them, but you can get whatever you want to go.”
An ad campaign on behalf of the Jamaica Avenue eateries also is coming, she said.