NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Personal care services such as nail salons, massage parlors, tattoo shops and tanning salons turned on their lights in Phase 3 of New York City's reopening this week, but indoor dining was halted because the airborne coronavirus spreads in closed environments with poor ventilation. The City is encouraging business owners to adapt and listen to health experts to dictate their economic future.
"As people begin to feel safe, they're going to come out," said New York City Small Business Services Commissioner Jonnel Doris on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight Podcast with Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso, sponsored by BNB Bank.
Doris was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio to lead the city agency through the pivotal survival and recovery period. He previously served as senior advisor and director of the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Enterprises. He also worked as chief diversity officer in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Office of Storm Recovery.
"There's going to be some change in customer behavior," Doris pointed out. "Make sure that you are as safe as possible. Do face coverings, make sure it's on, make sure that you use social distancing; that's going to bring the confidence level back, and then, we're going to be able to see, really, the customer foot traffic pick up."
He told Connolly and Carousso the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) has sent 5 million Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) items to City companies in the first three phases. He expects they'll be able to distribute another 2.5 million masks, face shields, gloves and goggles.
"We've got a lot of resources for businesses that are ready to go particularly our restaurants who have really been hit hard during this time," said Doris.
Restaurateurs had been preparing to welcome patrons inside by hiring and rehiring wait staff and ordering food from their suppliers, but now, many are turning to SBS for financial resources, including fundraising.
"Customers are eating out differently, they're coming out different times, their likens have changed, they've been locked up for three months," the City's business leader said. "As they see and they hear from their customers, they are making changes and they're pivoting."
Doris said about 7,000 restaurateurs are engaged in the agency's reopening program in which they provide tools and ideas for recovery.
"Financial resources and/or education really is key for the success of these businesses and that's what we are able to provide," he said.
Yudelka Carrera received operations training from SBS before she launched her catering and events-planning business Events By Yudy in 2015.
"During COVID-19, Yudy had to really transform her business from a catering company to preparing, now, and delivering lunches for people at home, healthcare workers, first responders and more," Doris said.
President Donald J. Trump on Saturday signed an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) low-interest loan that is forgivable if business owners use it to pay their employees. The original deadline for small businesses to apply for the program was last Tuesday, but $130 billion remained in the fund. Congress unanimously approved the extension for assistance until August 8.
Many prominent companies received millions of dollars in loans, including P.F. Chang's China Bistro and Chop't. The unintended assistance to large corporations has raised concerns that the government program funded owners with political connections. Doris is encouraging small businesses in need of capital to apply.
He points to three core principles for business owners in adapting to the so-called new normal: innovation, creativity and collaboration.
"We can't do business like we've always done it before," Doris said, continuing, "Industries got to work together, government and business needs to work better together, and that's what we're trying to do here."