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Already Struggling Queens Business Owners Say Summonses, Fines Over COVID Guidelines Are 'Unfair'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Business owners already struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic are getting hit again, this time with summonses and fines for not following COVID-19 guidelines.

Lorraine Gericke, manager of Best Tress Hair Salon, was told by a city inspector she was doing it all wrong, using a notebook to write down customers' temperatures and information for contact tracing.

"They're slapping us with a $1,000 fine, which is so unfair," she told CBS2's Dave Carlin.

The penalty is because they did not use city forms instead.

"We were not aware that we needed these," Gericke said.


Yi Qiang Chen learned he needed a paper displayed on his Jade Bamboo restaurant storefront indicating maximum capacity.

"I'm angry, but I cannot do nothing, you know?" he said.

He said the inspector told him, and just one day later, another inspector returned and fined him $1,000.

"They don't give me the time to do that, you know?" Chen said.

On one block of Dry Harbor Road in Middle Village, Queens, at least four business were hit with fines and, in some cases, multiple fines.

Louise Fawcett, of Matson's Delicatessen, has five documents displayed on her deli's door, but she said she was fined $1,000 for not having a thermometer.

"You have to have one that's non-contact," Fawcett said. "I ordered it online the day before they gave me a summons."

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"Give them a warning," New York City Councilmember Robert Holden said. "No, they won't do that."

Holden agrees with business regulations for COVID, but what he doesn't like is what he calls the heavy-handed way inspectors from the health, buildings and consumer affairs departments are going about enforcement.

"It is definitely a money grab. This is what the city has been doing even before, pre-COVID, they were doing this to the businesses, putting layer upon layer of regulations on them," Holden said.

Realtor Christopher Tscherne was fined for not having six-foot social distance markers on his floor.

"If an agent is going to come around and say I need to have stickers, why don't they have a few stickers in their car?" he said.

Tscherne and other business owners are begging the city to stop hurting the little guy and help them comply instead.


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