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Small businesses need loans, but also customers

Jeremy Holin sat in the back of his namesake Ale House on Front Street, across from South Street Seaport. In front of him: banknotes and a small pile of cash. We only got about $ 600 last night, Holin said, with desperation in his voice but also a “this is what it is” attitude.

Jeremy’s Ale House was flooded and suffered thousands of dollars in damage after Sandy. They are open now, but need customers. MetroFocus / Georgia Kral

He checked the invoices due:

“This one is $ 4,900, this one is $ 1,600, $ 2,800, another $ 1,600…”

Jeremy’s Ale House has been located in four different locations in the South Street Seaport area since it opened in 1973. Holin also owns another Jeremy’s in Freeport, Long Island, and Meade’s Bar and Pub around the corner from Ale House. All three “took Sandy’s water,” he said.

“But we’re open,” Holin said Wednesday morning in the bar. “Fortunately, we have friends to support us,” he added, pointing to two men who had prepared an early lunch at one of the old wooden tables in the dive.

But while Jeremy has been open for two weeks after the flood cleanup, customers have only poured in – little reward for the successful recovery of business.

“We’re not doing any business. There is no one here, he said.

Holin has already “spent” $ 100,000 of his own money and was asking for all the grants and loans he could.

“Anything I can put my dirty little paws on,” he said.

Holin recently applied for an emergency loan from the New York Small Business Services Bureau. Loans of up to $ 25,000 have been available to small businesses and New York-based nonprofits for at least last year that have fewer than 100 employees. The loans are interest free for the first six months and one percent interest for up to 24 months. Holin has yet to hear if he will receive the loan.

Kings Custom Tailor in Lower Manhattan had to throw away 12 sewing machines damaged by storm surge from Hurricane Sandy. Photo courtesy of Janice Ooi.

Over the weekend, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced an additional $ 5.5 million for small businesses applying for emergency loans. The additional funds are grants funded by $ 5 million from the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, as well as $ 500,000 from the Partnership for New York City. The grants will provide an additional $ 10,000 to each business that obtains a loan through the Emergency Loan Fund, and these funds do not need to be repaid.

Small Business Services press secretary Merideth Weber said 304 emergency loan fund requests have been submitted so far across the city, 90 of which have been in Lower Manhattan alone. Any type of business can apply for loans, she said.

Weber said the number of applications received so far is what they expected. She speculated that companies that were still cleaning had not yet had time to apply for a loan.

In Lower Manhattan, many businesses are either still closed or in difficulty. Along Front Street and Water Street, near the East River, only a few businesses are open. Most of the closed businesses are large chains – from Verizon to Subway to Starbucks – and aren’t eligible for loans because they’re not based in New York City.

King’s Custom Tailor and Alteration, on the corner of Water Street and Coenties Slip, is open, but like Jeremy’s Ale House, it hasn’t seen many customers.

“We have nothing to do. I don’t know if people will come back or not, ”said co-owner Janice Ooi. “My income sucks. Maybe I should stop everything.

Ooi, who rents her space, said her insurance company told her they would not cover any of the damages, which were significant. Although the business is located half a level above the street, all seams and alterations were made to the basement, which was filled to the ceiling with salt water from the wave of storm. Twelve sewing machines, worth at least $ 1,000 each, were destroyed. King’s Tailor has also applied for an emergency small business loan, but has yet to hear if and when the funds will be released.

Grandma’s Kitchen’s Kevin Barry stands in front of a sign stuck to the front window, which tells everyone who passes – and Sandy – that Grandma will be back. MetroFocus / Georgia Kral

But not everyone is even eligible for the loans.

Grandma’s House restaurant in Peck Slip, near the South Street Seaport, was filled to five feet of water after Hurricane Sandy hit Lower Manhattan a month ago. They are still cleaning up and owe several thousand dollars in debt, said manager and co-owner Kevin Barry. But Grandma’s biggest problem is the time she spends in the neighborhood. The cozy restaurant opened just three months ago, so it can’t apply for an emergency loan from the town’s small business services office.

“We are begging and begging for disaster assistance to put all of this back in place,” Barry said.

Barry is hoping FEMA can help, and the Downtown Alliance, an advocacy and research group that runs the neighborhood’s business improvement district, will launch a small business grants program next week.

So, as the neighborhood slowly rebuilds itself and loans (hopefully) arrive, the few open businesses are hoping customers will return soon. And many of those that are closed, including Grandma’s, promise to reopen.

“Come, let the sea be high… The grandmother is coming back”, we read on the panel in the window.

To apply for a loan, visit one of NYC’s Business Solutions Centers. In Lower Manhattan, the center is located at 79 John St.

TAGS: economy, government, Hurricane Sandy