Pittsburgh Gets Real

Study shows minority-owned businesses more likely to fail, close for good during COVID-19 pandemic

PITTSBURGH — The owner of Las Velas in Market Square, David Montanez, said without another stimulus package and with another shutdown, he will have to close his restaurant for good. He came to Pittsburgh from Cancun in the early 2000s and soon after opened his business.

“The pandemic started and it just went down,” Montanez said. “I can’t afford rent. I’m trying to keep my employees and that’s the most important thing to me, my employees.”

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Customers at the Mexican restaurant are now few and far between. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, two-thirds of minority-owned small businesses fear they’ll have to permanently close their businesses.

“I open up, I cook, I clean, I wait on people, I answer the phones, I take the catering orders. Basically, I’m a one-man show right now,” Pete Henderson said.

Henderson owns Chase’s at Gabriella’s on the South Side. Not only have most of his customers disappeared, but he had to lay off his staff just to stay afloat.

“We weren’t able to keep the employees we had because we weren’t bringing in the revenue,” Henderson said.

A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that Black-owned businesses have been almost twice as likely to fail during the pandemic.

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Both Henderson and Montanez say without help, they won’t be able to continue.

“The quicker we get that, the quicker we are going to get all of the economy coming back,” Montanez said.

“Taxes are still due so if we get help for that to help us get maybe an employee or two back, that helps the business,” Henderson said.

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