In yesterday's El Diario, there was a strong plea for greater help for the city's bodegas: "The New York City Council and Bloomberg administration are gearing up to help small businesses. Those plans must include concrete support for the thousands of bodega owners across our city." From where we stand, the current proposals don't offer much relief.
In fact, Speaker Quinn's initiatives are no more than palliatives: "The New York City Council and Bloomberg administration are gearing up to help small businesses. Those plans must include concrete support for the thousands of bodega owners across our city." And the paper agrees; "These plans could help ease the pain of small businesses as they struggle to stay afloat. But bodega owners, 80 percent of who are Latino, are in need of a tailored strategy."
Something in the area of a real estate tax abatement would help considerably; as would implementation of the Small Business Protection Act, a bill that would relieve stores from the pressure of overly zealous landlords: "For decades, bodegas have served neglected neighborhoods around the clock and where supermarkets and other services are scarce. And while other small businesses also face financial pressures, some bodegueros are getting squeezed by landlords. In a survey of mostly bodegas, the U.S.A. Latin Chamber of Commerce found that nearly one in three Latino small-business owners say that greedy landlords are demanding cash bribes before negotiating new leases."
But the real bane for the bodegueros is the way in which the state and city overwhelm them with taxes and fines: "The Association of Bodegueros says that fines and penalties, along with new state taxes being introduced, also threaten to undermine the survival of these stores. There are approximately 10,000 bodegas in the city, according to the Association." This means the soda tax in particular-a tax that really will impact the folks in those neighborhoods where bodegas thrive.
And wouldn't it be nice, as Bill Hammond wrote on Tuesday, if grocery stores were given the right to sell wine; after all, they are the bulwark of Main Street shopping: "Wine lovers who like a nice Chianti with their spaghetti would gain the convenience of one-stop shopping. And they'd probably save a few bucks, too, as thousands of additional retailers compete for their business.
Plus, this is a unique situation in which the affected taxpayers - supermarkets and bodegas - are eagerly volunteering to chip in a couple thousand bucks each for the opportunity to move into a new market."
Deregulation and lower taxes are the linchpin of business success-and the bodegas are no exception. Making it easier to get a permit is fine; but reining in the anti-store owner DCA would be even better. That, however, might effect the city's own revenues-and that's an area where it is often unwilling to yield. If the city keeps it up, its revenue pinata may soon shrivel. What then would city regulators have left to do?