SCHENECTADY — Leaders for the restaurant and bar industry are asking the state to push back the deadline for sales tax payments for three months in order to keep their businesses afloat.
Despite the drop-off in revenue, obligations remain, including payments to suppliers, rent and taxes.
"Without this, hundreds of thousands of restaurant jobs will be in further jeopardy," said Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA)
Local restaurateurs appeared warm to the concept.
While they acknowledge sales tax revenues are not theirs and have never factored into their budgetary planning, the funds will be critical as a stop-gap measure — perhaps even saving their businesses, they say.
“All restaurants are saying they’re experiencing a 75 to 80 percent downturn in business and we don’t know how long it’s going to last,” said Aneesa Waheed, co-owner of Tara Kitchen.
Restaurants may still serve takeout and delivery meals, but no sit-down service.
Schenectady restaurants pay 8 percent sales tax, which is equally divided between the state and county.
NYSRA is also calling for interest-free loans for businesses, which have seen a dramatic decrease in revenue. They also want no penalties for late payment of business and property taxes.
Pho Queen owner Gaan Fuino said while she would welcome the relief, she remained skeptical.
She pointed at Singapore as a model to follow, where leaders are taking a pay cut as a way to show solidarity as the epidemic batters the nation.
“They really take care of the country,” Fuino said.
Like other businesses in the hospitality industry, Fuino has been forced to lay off staff, letting go of three employees this week.
Jinah Kim, owner of Sunhee’s Farm and Kitchen in Troy, also pointed at Singapore.
"It's already a death sentence for many businesses,” Kim said. "If we're expected to take a pay cut, the government should be expected to do the same.”
Others have no problem paying the sales tax.
“I’m all set to go,” said Ambition owner Marc Renson.
Relief on that front appears unlikely. The state comptroller released a report on Tuesday revealing the state could face budget shortfalls of between $4 billion to $7 billion more than what had been anticipated.
The state Department of Tax and Finance pointed to comments made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday.
“I’d love to say to everybody in the state, ‘I know you’re having a tough time, nobody pay any tax,’” Cuomo said. “I would love to do that. I’ve cut taxes, I’ve cut taxes every year. But we’re not in a fiscal position to do that.”