Supporting local restaurants.
That was the goal as the New York State Restaurant Association hosted a networking event with Brooklyn restaurateurs and business owners at Marco Polo Ristorante, 345 Court Street, on the evening of Tuesday, May 16.
The purpose of the free event was to discuss issues that come with owning a Brooklyn restaurant.
“The event was about getting Brooklyn restaurateurs together for a networking event but also talking about issues that restaurants are facing today between the city and regulations,” said Marco Chirico, chef and an owner of Marco Polo Ristorante, as well as the chef and owner of Enoteca on Court next door. “Some issues were rent control and regulations that we face with different departments of the city. When city laws are being passed, there’s no conversation. They just pass a law without having a conversation with us.”
The event drew a big crowd with attendees including restaurant owners, lawyers and others in the food service industry. In addition, special guests like Six Point Brewery, Kings County Distillery and Brooklyn Winery showed their support.
Chirico stressed the importance of holding such a networking event for local businesses. “We need to raise awareness on how the city should approach the restaurants,” he said. “They are the backbone of this economy, especially in New York. We need to be aware of how many businesses are closing down, especially mom and pops. We have big corporations coming in and we have small businesses going out of business because they cannot handle rising expenses, between rent and city fines.”
The demands of the different agencies are sometimes in conflict, he added. “A lot of the city fines go against each other,” Chirico said. “The New York City Health Department want something to be removed, but the Fire Department wants something to be added, so you’re going back-and-forth on issues and there’s no communication between the city and restaurateurs or the city and small businesses.
“This industry has been in a bad situation for the last four years,” he went on. “We need to turn it around so we can have people go out to eat at restaurants instead of seeing empty stores on the streets.”
Those that attended the networking event found it to be a success, Chirico said. “We had a lot of people come up to us afterwards, saying thank you very much for the event,” he said. “It was great to understand what the situation is. We had a few people who were allies who are going to help the best they can with any new laws that get passed but the main goal is to get the City Council to help us, back us up and help keep our restaurants around.”
Chirico also offered advice for both patrons and restaurant owners. “Try to support your local restaurants and then for local restaurants, join together and especially join the association,”Chirico said. “With the Brooklyn Chamber also to start raising awareness of our industry’s problems, there’s so much we can do as a restaurant association. The non-members are who we are worried about.
“We need to bring awareness, and the mayor needs to understand that a lot of the city regulations that are being passed, there’s no one to stand back and help regular restaurateurs figure the situation out,” Chirico concluded.