Stopping the Regulatory assault

More and more evidence is coming in everyday that the city’s small businesses are under regulatory assault-and the impact of this thoughtless restriction of New York’s smallest entrepreneurs is impacting the health of the local economy. Kyle Smith focuses in on the bodegas-over 10,000 strong and a fixture in the low income neighborhoods:

“The bodega saga is a classic case of government giving you a back rub with one hand and punching you in the face with the other. Oozing sympathy for small businesses (actually for large and powerful unions), the city has successfully kept Walmart out of the five boroughs.

Great. Except a bodega on Avenue D this year was hit with a $6,000 fine and made to undertake $37,500 worth of renovations after somebody noticed that the space was zoned for a garage — back in 1940. Current owner Bernard Margalit pointed out that the space had been operating as a store since the 1980s, to no avail.”

The continuing recession has certainly taken its toll but the actions and attitude of government has made a bad situation much worse:

“On Grand Street in Brooklyn in 2010, a bodega was fined $40,000 in building-code violations because, on two advertisements it displayed promoting TV programs, the following words appeared in small print: “Free posters, while supplies last — Enter here to win great prizes.” Some sort of outdoor-advertising rule was broken. The bodega lawyered up and fought the fine in court for two years, then lost anyway.”

If it isn’t the everyday nuisance fines, then it’s the over-regulation hysteria-large soda and exotic alcohol drinks come to mind:

“In a fit of hysteria driven by media reporters about crazed teenagers on Four Loko, the senator from Brooklyn, Charles Schumer, two years ago rammed through an FDA regulation that banned alcoholic caffeine drinks. That killed another profit source in bodegaland, though the combination remains legal when you call it “Irish coffee.”

The impact on the viability of the bodegas has been large:

“In a recent survey by the Bodega Association of New York City, 61% of owners said they faced a risk of going out of business soon and only 24% said they would advise others to start a small business in the city. Seventy-one percent said city officials didn’t understand how their business operates. Last year the owner of Eden Farm, a well-liked East Village bodega, reported he had endured his “worst summer ever” and predicted he’d soon go under.”

So when the health of small stores is threatened, what does the city do? It begins a program to micromanage what the stores sell in order to allegedly promote health: “And to all of this, the city responds with more and more ridiculous interference. Now it’s pushing the New York City Healthy Bodegas Initiative, a friendly-sounding document that gently tries to steer bodega owners to selling healthier fare. Today’s nudge has a way of becoming tomorrow’s law.”

The health of the stores is secondary as the health regulators search for better ways to dictate to stores in pursuit of a healthy utopia. But as we have pointed out, time and time again, the impact of all this interference on the health of the city has been negligible-on the stores much greater and insidious. It’s time for all the neighborhood stores and restaurants to band together and fight back against the clueless health crusaders who are slowly and steadily stealing the American dream from struggling store owners.

Kyle Smith gets the last word:

“Not that it’ll work anyway, even if 1% milk becomes something bodegas are required by law to sell. It’s been four years since Bloomberg ordered restaurants to post calorie counts. Did New Yorkers stop being fat?”


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