In 2017 the New York City Hospitality Alliance monitored hundreds of proposed laws impacting the city’s hospitality industry. We helped defeat countless anti-business proposals, mitigated the impact of others, and successfully advocated for important regulatory reforms.
Here’s a taste of some of 2017’s most memorable highlights with a look towards continuing to raise the bar on behalf of the NYC restaurant and nightlife industry in 2018.
Commercial Rent Tax
The NYC Hospitality Alliance worked hard to reform the unjust Commercial Rent Tax, which is effectively a 3.9% surcharge that only businesses located south of 96th street in Manhattan pay on their annual rent when it exceeds $250,000. The reform increased the Commercial Rent Tax exemption threshold to businesses paying less than 500,000 annual rent, when their revenue is less than $5 million a year. This reform saves approximately 400 restaurants thousands of dollars each and every year. The Alliance will continue to advocate exempting more businesses from this unjust tax.
Nightlife Office at City Hall
The NYC Hospitality Alliance had been urging for the creation of a city-run Office of Nightlife for years that would serve as the intermediary between city agencies, law enforcement, residents and the nightlife industry; assist nightlife businesses with permitting and licensing matters; and promote an economically and culturally vibrant nightlife industry. We believe that if we want to remain the City that Never Sleeps, then city government must support our nighttime economy. So we are proud that the city officially established an Office of Nightlife.
Cabaret Law Repeal
In 2017, we accomplished a vital first step to the expansion of dancing in New York City with the repeal of the arcane cabaret law, which required a business to obtain a license before allowing people to dance in their restaurants and nightlife establishments. The repeal is a great first step but it does not automatically make it legal to allow customers to dance.
Repealing the cabaret law just removes the requirement that a business gets a license, but it does not eliminate all of these other requirements.
In 2018, NYC Hospitality Alliance will continue to advocate to reform the complex web of rules that restrict dancing so that more businesses around the city can allow dancing.
Air Conditioning & Open Storefronts
Another major victory we accomplished for our members in 2017 was amending a law to allow restaurants to keep their doors and windows open when the air conditioning is turned on without being fined by the city. This was a big problem for many restaurants because their open air features were built to provide a semi al fresco dining experience for guests, which results in much needed revenue for the business and created new good paying jobs. This was a pro-small business and pro worker reform that poses little to no impact on the environment. It’s a win-win!
Mobile Vending Reform
The NYC Hospitality Alliance was concerned about a last-minute rush to pass mobile vending reform legislation through the City Council in the last two weeks of the year.
Through our efforts it was announced that the City Council had pulled the proposals after the NYC Hospitality Alliance joined with other business and community groups and expressed strong opposition. The legislation would have increased the number of new street vendor permits by 330 every year, for the next 10 years. The more than 3000 new permits would have been in addition to the thousands that already exist and did not account for those already operating without a permit.
The carts often operate too close to restaurants in violation of the law and pose unfair competition. While the proposal had positive enforcement mechanisms, we believe a more comprehensive reform is needed. We look forward to working with all stakeholders on street vendor reform in 2018.
Halt of Ban on Wood and Coal Cook Stoves
The NYC Hospitality Alliance worked with the Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that wood- and coal- cook stoves were not banned and could continue to be used by restaurants if they install an emission control device. Existing wood- and coal- cook stoves were also given several years to install the emission control device as not to pose an immediate financial burden on a restaurant.
Food Donation Online Portal
The New York City Hospitality Alliance is proud to have successfully advocated in 2017 for a law creating an online food portal. The portal will help facilitate food donations from restaurants and others to feed hungry New Yorkers. Our city’s restaurants don’t only serve food to paying customers; they are also deeply involved in serving the needs of their communities. This is exemplified in the tons of food they donate and the millions of dollars the restaurant industry raises and contributes annually to feed hungry New Yorkers. This law will connect restaurants and other entities that have food to donate with local organizations and people who need it in a customized way and in real time.
Private Wine Collections
Last year the NYC Hospitality Alliance secured a major victory when we defeated a proposal, that if enacted, would have placed restrictions on restaurants that purchase rare and hard to find wines from “private collectors” when licensed wholesalers in New York didn’t carry a wine or did not have sufficient quantity to meet demand. This proposal would have significantly limited the ability of NYC restaurants to continue buying and serving many incredible wines from around the world.
Unfortunately, a similar proposal has now been introduced in the NYS Senate that would significantly limit a restaurant’s ability to purchase wine from a “private collector.” Additionally the proposal requires a “primary American source of supply.” This means that a manufacturer of a popular wine, champagne or spirit would be forced to choose a single distributor in the State of New York. By doing so, there is no competition for such a highly demanded product and retailers and restaurants would be required to buy from a single supplier and at any price they set – meaning consumers then have to pay higher prices.
The New York City Hospitality Alliance already issued an opposition memo to this proposal and will aggressively oppose it in 2018.
Personal Liens against Restaurant Owners for Wage Issues
We have identified this bill as a key focus for us in 2018. We oppose S2232/A5501, which would allow employees to file personal liens against business owners solely upon the allegation of a wage dispute, allow the state to place liens on property on behalf of claimants and make shareholders in limited liability companies personally liable for wage claims. While the Alliance takes the issue of wage theft extremely seriously – and recognizes the proposal’s positive intentions – the bill as drafted would have serious negative consequences on small businesses and employment in New York State. Wage and hour issues are taken seriously by the NYC Hospitality Alliance and our members and we have worked collaboratively with the NYS Department of Labor to ensure that existing laws and regulations both adequately protect employees and employers and are effectively enforced. This proposal has far too many potential negative consequences for small businesses in New York.