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Business owners, elected officials want CNY malls reopened

Ellen Abbott
WRVO Public Media
Destiny USA in Syracuse.

Shopping malls in New York continue to be closed as the economy slowly reopens from the coronavirus shutdown, but businesses and elected officials in central New York want those malls open.

Most of the 5,000 employees at Destiny USA in Syracuse, who have been unemployed for the last three months, work for small businesses. And those small businesses are in danger. Mike Theiss owns the University Sports Shop, with stores at Destiny and Great Northern Mall in Clay.

"They’ve got to do something soon or a lot of small businesses are gonna go out,” Theiss said.

He’s frustrated at the lack of direction from the state about when stores like his can open up, while other retail establishments, not in an indoor mall, have started selling.

"We’ve had to put a lot of things on hold,” Theiss said. “Orders to come in June, we’ve pushed back to August with the hope that business is open by them. But if that product comes in and we don’t have business, we can’t pay for that product, so it’s very scary."

Neil Patel owns World of Beer at Destiny and said he needs customers in his store soon.

“It’s business critical at this point,” Patel said. “We’ve been shut down for three months and we have zero revenue, still having many of the obligations that we had before.” 

He was ready to reopen when other restaurants were given the go ahead last Friday night in central New York.

"We’ve had all our safety protocols in place for weeks now, employee retraining, and we’ve incurred the cost and investment to do that,” Patel said. “We’d like the opportunity to be treated fairly, and open up.”

Lawmakers say they’ve been lobbying the state to open malls for weeks now, but are getting no clear answers. State Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli (D-Syracuse) said these businesses simply want to be able to plan ahead.

"I’m just asking the executive branch, give us the requirements they want, let us know what’s going to be asked of those businesses and let’s get on with it,” Magnarelli said. “It’s time.”

Magnarelli said his office has been calling the state every day on this issue, but so far are getting no answers about when malls could reopen. Destiny USA generates over $40 million annually in sales tax revenue to state and local governments.