BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Right now, Downtown Buffalo is desolate.
A normally pretty busy business city is dead. Businesses are closed up for the foreseeable future, with no opening date in sight.
The spot that you usually have your morning coffee or afternoon lunch is dark inside.
There will come a time the tide will turn, and the open signs will turn on once again. Many wonder what that could look like.
“There’s no playbook for this,” said Buffalo Niagara Partnership CEO Dottie Gallagher.
Gallagher says when the economy opens back up, there will be businesses that won’t be able to come back.
“We were at full employment here,” she said. “That has never happened in the history of Western New York.”
“Maybe we’re changing and speeding up the way the workforce is going to look like in the future,” said A.J. Baynes of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce. “Maybe people will work from home two days a week, and we won’t take such a large footprint in office space moving forward.”
The service industry has taken a huge hit. Restaurants unable to operate as normal. Some are offering takeout, others have closed their doors altogether.
“If there’s anything we’re learning now more than ever, it’s that companies need to pivot the delivery of services,” Baynes said.
“The National Restaurant Association is estimating as much as 5-12% of restaurants never open their doors again,” said Chuck Mauro, owner of 800 Maple, Rocco’s, J.T.’s and Siena.
Mauro says his businesses have had to furlough all employees, and have just now started getting back into takeout to remain relevant.
“It goes down the the suppliers, the farmer, to the guy who is fixing the truck tire, and that affects unemployment tremendously,” he said.
For the week ending April 25, Baynes says 10,086 people filed for unemployment in Erie County alone.
For Mauro, when restaurants open, there will be a 25% reduction in staff right from the beginning.
Everyone agrees it will take time to build back the economy, Gallagher says there is a silver lining. She says the partnership has received several “site” inquiries from some businesses downstate, and others looking toward Buffalo as an expansion city.
“So as to not be all concentrated in a New York City building for example,” she said. “To spread the risk, and the opportunities right now makes Buffalo very attractive for that.”
“The hope is the WNY economy is going to come back strong but is going to take some time,” Baynes said.