‘Unlock New Jersey’ Calls for Reopening of Small Businesses

Sharon Deventer-Goldfarb, owner of Sharon's Studio of Dance & Music in Whippany, on the ability of operations like hers to safely operate and that they must be open to provide young people with healthy outlets

MORRIS COUNTY — Unlock New Jersey held a press conference on Tuesday, June 3 in front of Depasquale the Spa, Powdermill Plaza East, Route 10, Parsippany.

Small Businesses in New Jersey are failing and will never survive the COVID19 crisis due to the restrictions under Governor Phil Murphy’s lockdown orders. We are urging the Governor to unlock the economy through a responsible, expedited, and decisive plan we have proposed. With summer quickly approaching and many people experiencing economic devastation, the time is now for massive action.

Joining Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce was Rosemary Becchi, tax lawyer as well as a Congressional candidate; Sharon Deventer-Goldfarb, owner of Sharon’s Studio of Dance and Music; Amanda Veinott-Praml, owner of now-defunct “Momique”; Justin Depasquale of Depasquale the Spa; Peter Sederas of Townsquare Diner in Wharton, also representing New Jersey’s Iconic Diners; and Owners of Village Restaurante & Pizzeria.

Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce: Intro to the start of Unlock New Jersey, that shop owners are here today to detail how the continued lock­down is killing small businesses and our economy

Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce said “Gathered on each side of me representing diners restaurants, jewelry stores, dance studios, you name it. They are a part of “Unlock New Jersey” and it has grown across the state of New Jersey. Unlock New Jersey Isn’t irresponsible. It’s not wrong. It’s right because it’s about opening up New Jersey and a responsible gradual way. We had asked that the governor open up New Jersey on Memorial Day to all businesses; that are not taking place. I see. As you have that, the Governor is opening up in phases. We see no plan before us, and we need to see that; we need to be able to understand what the Governor is thinking. I, for one, want to make sure that everybody is safe.”

“I can tell you that all the people around me and anybody, that’s a part of Unlock New Jersey,  they want to open their businesses, but they don’t want to get sick. They don’t want their employees sick. They don’t want their customers sick. They’re going to be responsible and do it the right way. We have been sending videos out there. We have been showing the Governor and the people, how responsible ‘Unlock New Jersey’ is” she continued.

Sharon Deventer-Goldfarb, owner of Sharon’s Studio of Dance & Music in Whippany, on the ability of operations like hers to safely operate and that they must be open to provide young people with healthy outlets.

Sharon Deventer-Goldfarb from Sharon Studio of Dance and Music located in Hanover Township said “We teach children and adults since 1975. Listening to everybody speak, I was thinking about the highest honor for me. The thing that fills my heart the most is we have third generation in our studio. That means they trust us. I taught the mother, the child came and now the grandchildren. That says a lot to me. Our children need to get back into the classrooms. Not only all the classrooms, not only for their physical wellbeing but for their emotional and mental health, they need to be back in class. I have set up all guidelines for safety. I researched all the studios throughout the country who are now open and open successfully.”

Amanda Veinott-Praml, owner of the now-defunct maternity boutique, Momique, which has gone under due to the lock-down

Amanda Veinott said “We are right down the strip center here. We’re two years old. And unfortunately, right before our second birthday, we had to make the very hard decision to close permanently because of the forced extended shutdown. I have a community of close to 6,000 moms here in Morris County that we serve through the business. When I made the announcement in the middle of May that we were going to have to close permanently. I had hundreds of people reach out to me personally, but also through our social media community saying how sorry they were to see that we had to close. It’s actually very emotional. My husband and I, put our life savings into this business. We invested close to $150,000 of our own money into this business to make sure that our community had a motherhood center and we’re losing it.

Justin Depasquale of Depasquale the Spa, which has submit­ted a safe re-opening plan to Governor Murphy for his business and sim­ilar salons, but has remained shuttered awaiting an answer and specific plan from the Governor, who only offered a re-opening date of June 15 without any specifics

“What do you do when your business is shut down and you have to furlough 170 employees? You just kind of watching your heart and soul sink every day. There are only so many days you can sustain something like that. Although the beauty industry is excited that we finally have a date there’s so much more to do. I think what’s really important is that business owners like us, understand that the future is going to look different and we are not ones to sit at home and salt. We’re not looking for handouts. We’re just looking for us to be able to get back to work responsibly. I know that the safety of the entire community is at hand here. So we are taking this very seriously. I would love to invite all of you to see the safety measures that we put in place. ” said Justin Depasquale.

“We’re not asking to be unreasonable. We’re asking to be responsible. We know our business better than anybody knows our business. And therefore I think the Governor if he would like to talk to us about our businesses, let us tell him how they should be operated safely and responsibly. And let’s all get back to work because if there are too many guidelines put on us, if there are too many restrictions that make no sense for our companies and our business, well then forget about being shut down. Even when we open, it will be very difficult to overcome the challenges we face and the monies we need to pay. And the teams we need to support and the bills that need to be paid. And we need to be very, very careful as we start to Unlock New Jersey,” continued Depasquale.

Peter Sedereas of Townsquare Diner in Wharton. Speaking on behalf of New Jersey’s iconic diners, some represented here today, which have been largely shuttered by the Governor and see little if any reprieve from the Governor’s vow to allow outdoor dining to return soon. Most diners do not have outdoor dining facilities, and those that do cannot maintain the business on the few tables they would serve outside their establishments

Peter Sedereas owner of Townsquare Diner stated “We don’t have customers. We have family, our patrons, or extended camp. One of my good friends, Brian, is here today in support of Jersey diners and all small businesses in New Jersey. We have heard, we need to flatten the curve. Now we have heard that we need a fully functional vaccine before we reopen our economy with the new normal, this has become such a fluid situation. Yes, there are many unknowns, but we need to use not only science and forecasting but logic, goalposts cannot be moved without logic. The time has come to reopen the economy with the proper safety procedures and guidelines in place. We are now at the point where we have an unsustainable business model that will be the demise of many small businesses. The Cares Act, the Paycheck Protection Program were great short-term fixes to help us sustain. They were beneficial and serve their purpose. But now we need to open our dining rooms in New Jersey. We are truly grateful that outdoor dining will be allowed starting June 15, but unfortunately, one size fits all mentality simply does not work in New Jersey. We are fortunate at the Town Square as we have an outdoor patio, but many diners and other restaurants don’t or simply will not have the capability to have outdoor dining.”

“You see how unlocked New Jersey is. We are working together to do it the right way. We’re being responsible and we are being protective of not only themselves but their customers and the public,” said BettyLou DeCroce.

Rosemary Becchi, a tax lawyer as well as a Congressional candidate, on the larger economic impact of keep small businesses locked down.

Rosemary Becci said “The message here is pretty simple. We need to open up New Jersey’s businesses safely and quickly. Unlock New Jersey is that approach. It’s thoughtful, it’s measured and it’s based on data. And that’s what our small businesses be. This is real life and real people and real stories. And when your business is failing or you can’t get that PPP loan, it puts a pit in your stomach, it hurts. We have to do something. I think Justin said it and a few others. This is not only a short term conversation about reopening. It’s also a long term conversation. It’s a longterm conversation about putting in place the policies that will help our businesses grow and help our businesses grow back to where they were and beyond. We need to help people and we need to do it now. Again, we need to open our small businesses safely and quickly. At the end of the day, the ultimate judge is going to be the customers. That’s, who’s going to decide whether or not they’ve done it safely. And if they feel safe, they will come back. And, and that’s what we need the Governor to pay attention to. And we need him to set a clear cut matrix for reopening our businesses.”

The group, which is also asking concerned residents to send physical or virtual keys to Gov. Phil Murphy as a symbolic gesture, argues small business owners need help as the COVID-19 pandemic forces locals shops to close and people to stay home.

Fatmir Nika, Azem Kolig and George Koliq from Village Restaurante & Pizzeria (formerly Il Villaggio Restaurant)

For more information on Unlock New Jersey click here. You can also click here to download a copy of Unlock New Jersey’s complete plan.