What is an 'Essential Business'? Empire State Development Corp. Updates Guidance

What is an 'Essential Business'?

As the coronavirus pandemic has spread and its implications become more dire, governments and organizations across the country have issued -- and amended -- restrictions on all but 'essential' businesses in order to slow the rate of infection and transmission. The Empire State Development Corporation has issued some updated guidance in an effort to clarify which businesses or services qualify as “essential.” Not all categories considered essential are relevant to co-op and condo communities, but if your building or association has one as a commercial tenant -- a medical practice, for instance, or a therapist's office -- your board-management team should be aware that those businesses are not mandated to close at this time (indeed, they're more important now than ever), and should work with those business owners and their staff to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding social distancing, sanitizing surfaces, and just generally looking out for each other.   

According to attorney Carol M. Goodman, a partner with law firm Herrick Feinstein LLP's New York office, the Development Corp.'s list of 'essential' businesses, services, and employees in the multifamily context include the following:

Essential health care operations, including:

Doctor's and emergency dental offices

Walk-in-care health clinics and facilities

Licensed mental health providers

Licensed substance abuse treatment providers

Senior and elder care, including home health care and aides

Nursing homes, residential health, and congregate care facilities

Research and laboratory services

Medical wholesale and distribution

Medical supply/equipment manufacturers and providers

Emergency veterinary services

Medical billing support personnel

Essential retail, including:

Grocery stores, including all food and beverage stores


Convenience stores

Restaurants and bars (for take-out/delivery only)

Hardware, appliance and building material stores

Pet food stores

Essential services including:

Trash/recycling collection, processing and disposal

Mail/shipping services


Building cleaning/maintenance

Child care services

Automotive repair

Warehouse distribution/fulfillment

Funeral homes and crematoriums

Storage for essential businesses

Maintenance for the infrastructure of the facility or to maintain or safeguard materials or products therein

Animal care/shelters

Financial Institutions including

Banks and lending institutions


Payroll services

Accounting firms

Services related to financial markets

Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations including:

Homeless shelters and congregate care facilities

Food banks

Human services providers whose function includes the direct care of patients in state-licensed or funded voluntary programs; the care, protection, custody and oversight of individuals both in the community and in state-licensed residential facilities; those operating community shelters and other critical human services agencies providing direct care or support

Construction including:

Skilled trades such as electricians and plumbers

Other related construction firms and professionals for essential infrastructure, emergency repair, and safety purposes

Essential services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences or other businesses including:

Law enforcement, including corrections and community supervision

Fire prevention/response

Emergency management and response, EMS and 911 dispatch

Security providers

Building code enforcement

General maintenance, whether employed by the entity directly or a vendor

Building cleaners or janitors

Disinfection services

Residential moving services

Goodman adds that for further information, boards and managers can visit the New York State Department of Health’s COVID-19 Webpage at: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Webpage at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/, and for local health department contact information, visit: https://www.health.ny.gov/contact/contact_information/index.htm

This advisory is offered as a service to clients and friends of Herrick Feinstein LLP and The Cooperator, and is intended as an informal summary of certain recent legislation, cases, rulings and other developments. This advisory does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion and is not an adequate substitute for the advice of counsel.

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