Six months after the city’s business curfew kicked in roughly half-dozen businesses have shuttered, according to business owners in hot spot locations.
“Every customer that I had is gone,” said Gloria Aguasvivas, owner of Aguasvivas Bar and Liquor. “I lost everything.”
Aguasvivas has been at the East 18th Street location for more than eight years. She said on an usual day her bar would be packed with 45 to 50 people, but now, due to the business curfew, even during peak hours there are fewer than 11 people at her bar.
So far five businesses have closed definitively, said bar owner Quilvio Montesino. Some bar owners have said that number is more than a dozen, but Montesino could only point out five recently deserted store fronts that housed chicken joints, bars, and liquor stores.
Aguasvivas said she has little choice but to call it quits. She pulled out purchase receipts from September 2014: her establishment purchased $13,000 worth of liquor; in February, the most recent month for which she has receipts, her store purchased $4,000 worth of liquor.
“Business is so bad it’s not even a joke anymore,” said Aguasvivas.
Wilson Torres, owner of Liquor and Bar on Broadway, opened a book that listed sales data for two years. In February 2014, Torres’ business took in $47,269; in February 2015, Torres’ business took in $28,067, according to his records.
Torres said he has been infusing money into his business to continue operations. He said his savings will run out within five to six months at which point he will have no choice, but to shut down.
Torres has already reduced the number of employees at his establishment. He said before the business curfew he had four employees now he is down to two. “I have a family that’s dependent on me,” said a distressed Torres.
Montesino said both of these businesses are on the brink of collapse. “You’re going to see them close quickly unless we get to some sort of a solution,” he said.
Montesino said they are hanging in there to see if the city will do something or if the court will issue a favorable ruling. He estimates 10 other businesses will shutter in the next month or so under pressure from the business curfew.
“I’m not convinced the economic picture that they’re presenting is a true picture,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman. McKoy said the business owners impacted by the curfew should present their financial records to the city council.
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, expressed skepticism over the amount of money each of the businesses said they were losing. He said they only lost three hours of business.
“You’re going to tell me three hours out of a 24-hour day shutters your business? That doesn’t make sense to me,” said Morris.
“It’s unfortunate these businesses have to close,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman. “My primary concern is the safety of our citizens.”
“We’re not trying to run them out,” said Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman. She said the business owners need to adjust to the new environment by creatively luring customers.
“Sometimes you have to look at how you’re doing business and try to come up with something different to attract people to your establishment,” said Cotton.
Some of these businesses serve to destabilize neighborhoods, she said. Cotton said at times they have little or no respect for the neighborhood in which they do business.
“I’m sorry to hear that they are closing,” said James Staton, 1st Ward councilman. “We can replace them with other businesses that offer other services.”
Staton said the city can use more coffee shops and cleaners. He said not much attention is being paid to the harm that alcohol brings to transitional neighborhoods. “They are thriving off the misery of our people,” said Staton.
“Everything has consequences, some businesses will shut down,” said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman. “You have to look at the whole of Paterson, if the quality of life is going down, then what’s the point of having businesses?”
“The curfew is an effective tool in fighting crime,” said police director Jerry Speziale. “So I guess you really have to put a price on what is the cost of having a good quality of life.”
Speziale said crime has gone down as a result of the curfew.
“You cannot put a price tag on a human life,” added Akhtaruzzaman.
“I will continue to be concerned about the economic situation of any Paterson business owner because they are our partners in this city, but my concern about the safety of our children and our residents supersedes any other concerns,” said Morris.
“It’s high time we look introspectively at ourselves,” said McKoy. “How much are we willing to sacrifice in lives and in quality of life in the pursuit of making a dollar?”
The curfew has also impacted businesses that are outside the hot spots, according to bar owners. They point out taxi companies that have been losing customers.
“We’re losing a lot of money,” said William Maisonet, owner of Excellent Transportation. “The drivers they have to bring the cars to the business because they don’t have any work.”
Similarly, a restaurant on Madison Avenue that sits just outside one of the 15 designated curfew zone closed due to the curfew. Las Palmas Restaurant closed earlier in the month.
“I don’t think it’s bad, the crime is going down in Paterson,” said Maisonet.
Aguasvivas, 59, of Clifton, said she invested her life savings in her bar, but now she’s seeing it all disappear under the curfew. She said she has stopped paying property taxes to the city because she can no longer afford it.
“I’m ready to call the bank and give everything in – I’m done,” said Aguasvivas.
Council members Alex Mendez and Julio Tavarez both of whom have come out against the business curfew did not respond to calls seeking their comments for this story.