NYC business owners say they won't survive another shutdown

The ZIP code 11367 in Queens encompasses Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, and a small sliver of Flushing, where Albert Gavrieli's Barber Shop is located on Kissena Boulevard.

"We do everything right, the customers do everything right," Gavrieli said. "Everybody wears masks, no one comes in the barbershop before they call."

But despite making every effort to comply with the rules since reopening in June after the citywide lockdown, Albert's Barber Shop may get shut down again under a proposal by the mayor to close non-essential businesses in nine COVID hotspot ZIP codes in which the daily positivity rate of coronavirus tests has exceeded 3% for more than seven days.

"Until we hear otherwise, our plan is to move ahead Wednesday morning with enforcement in those nine ZIP codes of all non-essential businesses," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a Monday news conference.

Gavrieli said he fears that could put him out of business for good.

"I think if we're going to close again, he's going to kill the barbershop business, the nail salons," he said. "It's very bad."

But Gavrieli and other business owners are holding out hope they can stay open. De Blasio needs the approval of the state to move forward with his plan. Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the OK to shut schools in the problem ZIP codes, he said he's not ready to shut down businesses in those areas.

"Businesses are not mass spreaders," Cuomo said. "You're talking about small stores."

Further, he said, deciding what to close based on ZIP codes is arbitrary because in some cases infection rates may be high in only certain parts of that ZIP code. He said he wants to create more precise boundaries of the COVID cluster areas.

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"Before we create confusion — one side of the street you're open, one side of the street you're closed," Cuomo said, "let's get the right template, and then we'll take those actions."

The mixed messages from the city and state have left business owners confused and scared.

"I'm very worried," said Gavireli, who hasn't been able to pay rent on his shop for four months. He said he fears that "everyone is going to lose jobs" if the closures move ahead.

Some business owners say it's especially unfair for the mayor to shut them down while allowing religious institutions to stay open, especially because many of the outbreaks are linked to Orthodox Jewish communities.

Cuomo plans to meet with leadership from those communities in the city and Orange and Rockland Counties on Tuesday.