What Park Slope Restaurateurs Think About Paid Sick Day Bill

by Will Yakowicz

Park Slope Patch

Friday, August 17, 2012

 The Paid Sick Day Bill, was tabled by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in 2010 but may still be voted upon. If passed it would require businesses with 20 or more employees to give nine annual paid sick days.

Should waiters and waitresses have paid sick days? What about the salesperson at the small locally owned jewelry shop?

In the neighborhood that takes pride in its many upscale restaurants and homegrown businesses, few Park Slope business owners supported the idea of mandatory paid sick days.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn tabled the legislation in 2010, and she has repeatedly said she would not consider it. But, Councilwoman Gale Brewer, D-Manhattan, has sponsored the bill and if passed, it would require companies with more than 20 employees to give nine annual paid sick days, while businesses with 19 or fewer workers must provide five days a year. 

A letter signed by 177 business owners was delivered to Quinn, in response to a new push by the Working Families Party to get the bill into action, The New York Post reported last week.

Irene LoRe speaking as the former owner of Aunt Suzie’s — one of Park Slope’s pioneering restaurants on Fifth Avenue which closed this year after 25 years in service — stressed her opinion did not reflect that of the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District.

“I am against it. The way I see it is that it’s an intrusion of how people run their businesses. There’s no City Department of Labor, that doesn’t exist, so how will they enforce it?” LoRe said. “It’s a nightmare to run a business in New York City. New businesses will never get off the ground.”

LoRe explained that if you did “the arithmetic of nine paid sick days a year” for ten employees, it would be “the wage of another employee.”

Jose Ventura, the co-owner of Casa Ventura on Seventh Avenue which opened this past April, said he’d love to offer paid sick days to his employees, but he doesn’t think the bill would be viable for his business.

“For the small business owner with less than 20 employees, times are tough. Your employee can just say, ‘I’m sick’ and not come to work and I have to pay him. It’s a tough call,” he said, explaining that he has 15 employees. “For a businessman who owns five restaurants, it may not be a big deal, but for a small business owner like myself with one restaurant trying to grow, it’s not that easy. Small businesses cannot afford to pay employees who don’t work.”

Farid Ali Lancheros, the co-owner of Bogota Latin Bistro on Fifth Avenue, was quoted in The New York Post article and signed the letter to Quinn. However, he changed his stance and supports the bill, so he sent a follow-up letter to Quinn himself, outlining what he does at his restaurant.  

For a couple years now, Bogota has offered their full-time employees five paid sick days a year.

“We offer our fulltime employees paid time off, which it is accrued,” he said, explaining that his employees accrue hours off little by little. “When it comes to the bill there are small businesses that are just starting out and suffering due to undercapitalization. They require that money to build their business.”

Lancheros said that there does come a point where small businesses start making that revenue back and once they can, they should start offering their employees benefits like paid sick days off, “but they need a chance to grow first.”

Bogota Latin Bistro also offers all of their employees health benefits, which is rare in the restaurant business, Lancheros said, whose business has been open for eight years.

“The health of our employees is crucial. Taking care of our employees is our number one priority. Plus, we don’t want sick employees around food,” he said.

But, the letter from the Coalition for a Healthy Economy said that the bill would not be good for small businesses.

“A growing number of employers in this city are small start-ups, including many women-, minority and immigrant-owned firms. These are the job creators who will be hurt most by the extra costs associated with a paid sick-leave mandate,” the letter read.