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Rep. Tom Suozzi: Restaurants,  live performing venues need federal aid

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) joined local theater and restaurant owners at a news conference in Huntington to urge members of Congress to pass a bill that provides federal aid. Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman

Rep. Thomas Suozzi on Monday called on the U.S. Senate to pass a pandemic recovery bill similar to one the House passed last week to help save restaurants and live entertainment venues devastated by the economic impact of COVID-19.

The bill passed by the Democrat-controlled House includes a $120 billion grant program for restaurants and $10 billion to help live entertainment venues, Suozzi said. He called the industries "an important part of our lives that's threatened right now."

The prognosis for the $2.2 trillion relief package containing those programs is unclear.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke Monday with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about coronavirus stimulus plans, and Trump on Saturday urged Congress to pass a relief deal. But no agreement has been reached.

Performance theaters, live music venues, comedy clubs, catering halls and restaurants continue to suffer the economic impact of the shutdown and limits due to the pandemic.

"Restaurants, music venues — that’s part of what makes our lives worth living," Suozzi told reporters Monday at The Paramount theater in Huntington.

"There’s no reason why we can’t find common ground," said Suozzi, vice chairman of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus.

Paramount co-owner Brian Doyle said without government funding the popular venue would have to close.

Laura Mogul, executive director of Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington, said unlike other small businesses that have been able to reopen, live entertainment venues still remain shuttered under the state's lockdown and have received no guidance on when they might be able to prepare to reopen.

"We need funding now to support the large capital expenditures to bring our ventilation systems to code and we need to purchase technology that will allow us to stream our programming — a poor substitute but we need to continue to deliver programming, music, art, culture, social action to the communities we serve," Mogul said.

"Our revenue stream is gone and we have no idea when we are going to get it back," she said.

Michael "Eppy" Epstein, owner of My Father’s Place in Roslyn, said during the pandemic people need some form of entertainment to lift their spirits.

"The reason to get everyone’s theater, supper club, catering hall, comedy club open is because we need the laughter and music to lift our souls in this time which is so depressing," Epstein said. "There’s got to be a way for us to tackle this together and get everyone out of their depressions."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday is expected to hold a video news conference to propose legislation to create a new loan program to fund six months of employer and operating expenses for businesses, including entertainment venues, that have lost substantial revenue and could not the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

The loan program, which was designed to help small businesses maintain their payrolls, expired in August.

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