Brooklyn traders are still struggling 2 years after the COVID outbreak

Many small businesses in Brooklyn are still struggling to stay afloat as the city has passed two years since the coronavirus pandemic began shutting down, a new poll shows.

While the city took some steps to return to normal in 2021, just 41 percent of merchants and other businesses reported a year-over-year increase in revenue from 2020, according to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce survey of 185 of its members.

Meanwhile, 72 percent of companies reported sales below pre-pandemic 2019 levels, the survey said.

Additionally, 68 percent of retailers reported customer losses compared to 2019, and 41 percent of respondents said they were struggling with labor shortages, while 26 percent said they had fewer employees than two years ago.

“What our year-end survey definitely shows is that business owners continually face ongoing challenges that are blocking the truly robust recovery that New York City deserves and can achieve,” said Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

A majority — 56 percent of those surveyed — said they had not met their post-COVID-19 recovery goals. About 25 percent of businesses said they were unable to work or had to close temporarily in the past year due to shortages.

Looking north down Smith Street in the traditional Italian neighborhood of Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, New York.
According to a poll by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, only 41 percent of merchants and other businesses reported year-over-year revenue increases as of 2020.
Alamy Stock Photo

Thirty-three percent of businesses continued to struggle to pay rent in 2021, and some are now at risk of closing since the state lifted its 20-month pandemic-related moratorium on evictions, the chamber said.

At the height of the pandemic in 2020, many retailers were forced to close to stem the spread of the virus, and nearly a third never reopened.

In the past year, 40 percent of businesses have reduced their uptime, two-thirds say they’ve undertaken a technical overhaul of their business model, including moving to more online/e-commerce, while 26 percent say they’ve changed their product mix.

The COVID-19 outbreak has forced other owners to delay opening new bars and restaurants.

Angela Terry
Angela Terry delayed the opening of her Therapy Wine 2.0 company because of the pandemic.
Paul Martinka

Therapy Wine Bar 2.0 in Brooklyn opened in November — a year later than planned — because of the pandemic, owner Angela Terry said.

“It was definitely a challenge to get into the mindset and say, ‘We’re going to make this,'” Terry said Tuesday.

Gov. Kathy Hochul recently visited her wine bar and restaurant to unveil her plan to permanently sell alcohol to-go in bars and restaurants.

The struggles reported by Brooklyn merchants are a microcosm of the challenges facing New York’s economy at large as the city and state try to emerge from the pandemic.

Therapy wine bar 2.0
Governor Kathy Hochul recently visited Therapy Wine 2.0 to unveil her plan to permanently sell alcohol to-go in bars and restaurants.
Paul Martinka

New national jobs statistics show New York is experiencing the slowest recovery of mainland states — with private sector jobs still down 5.8 percent from pre-pandemic levels. Only tourism-heavy Hawaii was worse at minus 10.9 percent.

As of January, New York had recovered nearly 75 percent of post-pandemic job cuts, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, while overall U.S. employment exceeded 90 percent of February 2020 levels.

“However, at January’s growth rate, New York still will not fully recover by the end of 2023, while the nation is on track to return to pre-pandemic levels within this year,” said EJ McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy in his analysis of figures.

“All of New York’s other neighboring states were much further along the path to recovery — with New Jersey in the strongest position, down just 2.2 percent from before the pandemic.” Brooklyn traders are still struggling 2 years after the COVID outbreak


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