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'Let The People Decide': New York City Business Owners Defy State Orders, Reopen Early

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As parts of the tri-state area begin Phase 1 of reopening, allowing some industries to go back to work, businesses across New York City are getting antsy.

Some are defying state orders and opening.

The doors of Sunbelievable, a tanning salon on Amboy Road in Staten Island, are locked, but come Thursday, they'll be open by appointment only.

Twenty-five-year business owner Bobby Catone says if some big box stores can open, why can't he?

"Appointment planned for tomorrow, which was minimized already for 50% capacity," Catone told CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis.

Sanitizer at the front counter, a protective shield at the desk and marks for social distancing are just some of the safety measures in place.

RELATED STORY: New York City Small Business Owners Losing Patience With Government Over Not Being Allowed To Reopen

Catone plans to open his tanning salon despite government orders to keep non-essential businesses closed.

"We're being punished for trying to put food on our table," he said. "I'm not a legal expert, I'm just a regular guy being the face and the voice of small businesses."

But he's backed by attorney Louis Gelormino, who's also representing five other businesses.

"We feel the city and the state are overstepping their bounds. They're greatly exceeding their authority," Gelormino said. "Let the people decide whether they want to come to this business."


In Borough Park, Brooklyn, several shop owners defied orders and opened.

"I don't think it's right for all small stores to be closing when all Walmarts and Targets and the bigger brands do open and sell clothing," said Isaac Lati, manager at the clothing store Rebecca.

Echoing that is Simcha Minkowitz, the owner of Amor Fine Jewelry, who started a coalition of more than 300 New York business owners.

"We're not looking to make a fight with the governor or with the mayor, but we're just saying this needs to be fair," she said. "Ten people can get together in a park, ten people can gather together in other situations, why can't I allow one person in my store?"

RELATED STORY: Brooklyn Businesswoman Questions Why Small Businesses Aren't Trusted To Reopen With Safety Measures In Place

But Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city has only met five of the seven metrics for reopening.

"If people jump the gun and they don't follow the rules, that's the best way to guarantee we don't get to our reopening, so of course we're going to enforce this and we're going to enforce it aggressively," he said.

"You're damned if we do, damned if we don't," Cantone said in response to the mayor's position. "It's not working this way. I have to take a chance or we have to take a chance. If there's repercussions, there's repercussions."

Some NYPD officers did stop by Wednesday to check in with Cantone. He explained he will "peacefully" open Thursday at 11:30 a.m.

To be clear, the mayor expects Phase 1 of reopening to begin in the city in the next few weeks, but that doesn't include entering stores or salons.

Watch Dick Brennan's report --

Westchester and Rockland counties, along with Long Island, are all in so-called Phase 1 reopening.

Shops in Scarsdale are following the rules, but owners feel the frustration and now added costs.

"I feel you're safer coming into my store than going into a CVS or a supermarket," small business owner Michelle Anderson told CBS2's Dick Brennan.

Marcy Berman-Goldstein owns the I Am More store and is having custom plastic sheets installed. They will be paying over $1,000 for the added protection for customers.

"For a small business who hasn't been able to pay rent, hasn't been able to have income to really support itself, it's a lot of money, but it's the only way that we know that we could open," Berman-Goldstein said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for his part, was in Washington meeting with President Donald Trump, advocating for a stimulus bill and an infrastructure plan for the New York region.

"He's a developer, right? He gets it." Cuomo said Wednesday.

The governor did unload on Senate Republicans but was careful not to criticize the president.

"He's still the president of the United States, he's still got the ability to make people write checks from different agencies to send money to guess where? New York. So don't make him angry if you don't have to," Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf said.

So how did the meeting go between Cuomo and Trump? The governor was vague on the details, but they've agreed to talk again next week.

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