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Businesses That Rely on Student Traffic Suffer

As midterms approach during the fall 2020 semester, students don’t expect to return to campus for the upcoming spring semester, which could mean deep trouble for local businesses.

Recent data from Yelp’s latest Economic Impact Report indicates that of the thousands of businesses that have closed during the pandemic, 60% won’t reopen. Since March, 4,000 businesses in New York City have permanently closed.

Gourmet Bagel, a neighborhood eatery that usually gets a lot of Hunter traffic using its student discount, is feeling the effects of remote learning. Bella, the head cashier who only gave her first name because she wasn’t authorized to speak to the press, said that business has taken a toll. “Business has been very slow, we always had students around and they were our main customers in the store, we still get a few students but not like before,” she said in a phone interview.

The community has been doing their part to try and make up for the lack of student presence. “Local neighbors are coming by, even for a coffee or a dozen bagels. They try to help out and they say they come by to at least help a bit until things get back to normal, I just hope students come back soon,” Bella added.

According to Eater, about 1,000 bars and restaurants have closed permanently since March, but accurate data for businesses in New York City could take months or years to be compiled. NYC Hospitality Alliance, a group that represents thousands of local restaurants reported in a recent survey of 450 establishments that 87% of businesses were unable to fully pay rent in August, the report also indicated that 34% of businesses were unable to pay any rent at all.

In July, The New York City Business Improvement District Association called on New York state and local officials to provide relief to local businesses, the group represents the city’s 76 BIDs.

“The city and state must find ways to stimulate commercial activity or we will continue to lose businesses and jobs at an alarming rate,” Robert J Benfatto, co-chair of the Association said in a press release. None of the restaurants contacted revealed any information about receiving financial relief.

Melinda Monterroso, a Hunter student who ate at Gourmet Bagel at least once a week says she misses their food. “Their bagels were always toasted just right, If I knew I had a long day, I would stop by there before class.” Now during her online classes she sometimes has a bagel with eggs at home instead.

Café Classico, a kosher restaurant on 57th St., provided a student discount. It is now closed due to the pandemic. A message on their website reads: “We are temporarily closed due to the current conditions. We apologize for any inconvenience and we will open ASAP. Thanks for your patience.”

A few blocks over, Gregory’s Coffee, a coffee and tea shop whose cups were a common sight on campus, has a blank spot on their website where the Lexington location should be. It is temporarily closed. Requests for comment as to why the location has been closed and if it will be reopening went unanswered.

One employee at the Dunkin’ Donuts closest to Hunter College confirmed that the franchise location has dealt with some of the same decreases in customers as other local coffee shops and said that business has been slower than usual. The employee added that she remembers seeing students come in more often around this time of year.

It remains unclear whether these businesses have received financial relief from the government or whether students will be returning to campus anytime soon. Indoor dining resumed in the beginning October with strict restrictions, but recent reports show an uptick in reported coronavirus cases in New York City. The rise in cases has led to the halting of indoor dining in hotspot neighborhoods, further fueling fears of a second wave.

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