While at first glance South Queens looks desolate on the Who’s Open Queens? map of businesses that have remained open during the pandemic, one need look no further than Woodhaven to find an outlier teeming with icons.
The focus is the 25-block strip along Jamaica Avenue that makes up the Woodhaven BID. And its new, bountiful representation on the map is a sign of the BID’s organization during the crisis.
The entire Who’s Open Queens? map can be found on its website at bit.ly/2YWJNBT
The BID’s Executive Director Raquel Olivares has begun tallying the health of the business district in order to keep the map’s organizers up-to-speed on the openings and closings, which change from day to day.
As of Tuesday, 110 out of 327 businesses have kept their doors open, according to Olivares’ biweekly reporting.
“Some are ready to reopen,” said Olivares. She said that over the prior week she noticed more businesses opening up, perhaps in expectation of a busy Mother’s Day.
“They have to come up with some new ideas on how to do business because the previous menus are not as useful when you’re trying to do deliveries and takeout, trying to adapt to the new normal,” she said.
Olivares has heard of several businesses that had a successful Mother’s Day weekend, like Pop’s Restaurant and the Avenue Diner.
But she added that along with the surge of openings and willingness to test the waters of delivery and takeout, a different, grimmer reality has set in for some of the closed storefronts whose owners have not been able to secure Paycheck Protection Program loans: Many are going to have difficulty coming back.
“I’m afraid that we’re going to see a really big increase in vacancies,” said Olivares.
Very few of the restaurants along the corridor have been able to qualify for PPP loans. Many of them ran into trouble getting their applications in on time. Language was a barrier for the many Spanish-speaking owners. As a result, many business owners depended on accountants, but each of those had 10 to 20 clients who all needed to get their paperwork in at the same time, Olivares said.
Even for those who are able to open back up, the future of what restaurants will look like is completely uncertain. Mayor de Blasio is considering instituting limited capacity at restaurants and bars during the reopening, which raises the questions of how that will affect their bottom lines.
“The Avenue Diner, for instance, has a really big space, but his rent is going to stay the same,” said Olivares.
But for now the diner continues to stay busy during the pandemic, according to Olivares. It’s one of the strip’s many gems, along with the Manor Deli, which have anchored a sense of local pride over the past two months. The deli’s owner, Mark Gallagher, even made some social media videos showcasing his store’s local charms that went locally viral.
“Support your local businesses,” said Gallagher in a video. “Don’t wait on line at big box stores. Your local areas have everything.”