BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Instead of a celebration to mark its second anniversary, Owl's Head Yoga Studio was empty Thursday. Owner Erica Stavrou hasn't had any in person instruction here since all non-essential businesses were forced to close in March because of the pandemic. Now, she wonders how long she can hold on.
"Right now, I'm fighting with everything, my heart, my soul to keep our doors open,” said Stavrou. “I don't want to even have to think about closing its doors."
With no guidance on when yoga studios can reopen, Stavrou tried to get help from her insurance company but her claim for business interruption was denied. She also looked into the Payroll Protection Program and other kinds of government assistance.
"Here, I don't have employees, I have independent contractors,” said Stavrou. “Some of the things that were initially offered to help establishments like mine weren't even, the application didn't even apply to a business like mine."
New legislation co-sponsored by State Senator Andrew Gounardes would help small businesses like Stavrou’s. Landlords who reduce the rent for some commercial tenants would be entitled to a property tax break.
"There would be an abatement on the property tax for the landlords in exchange for renegotiating the lease,” said State Senator Gounardes. “Many of these leases have high rents that have been baked in. Right now if you have a yoga studio you're not even allowed to operate inside. How are you able make rent payments based on a rent that is probably already too high for you? That doesn't make sense."
Stavrou said she would jump at a chance for a long-term recovery lease, because even when she's permitted to open her 650-square-foot studio she likely would be allowed to operate only at a reduced capacity.
"I don't want to walk away from my space,” said Stavrou. “We didn't just walk into a space that was ready for us. We invested a lot of money of our own. We did all the manual labor ourselves. So a lot of love and a lot of money went into making Owl's Head Yoga what it is."
She added that what's needed during the pandemic is the mental well being yoga could bring particularly during a health crisis.