Kings Pharmacy Survival Threatened by Bank's Federal Loan Snafu

Jones Chan, co-owner and pharmacist of Kings Pharmacy in Tribeca. Photo courtesy of Jones Chan

Apr. 16, 2020

As the federal funds that could save Tribeca’s Kings Pharmacy quickly ran dry, the store’s pharmacist and co-owner, Jones Chan, has waited and fumed, unable even to apply.

Chan is holding onto his 20 employees despite a loss of at least half his business, hoping for a loan from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. As an incentive to prevent layoffs, the federal program promises to forgive the loans if workers are kept on the job for eight weeks. But Kings Pharmacy’s bank, Capital One, like other banks, require applications to be uploaded to a dedicated website. But the website had yet to function. (Businesses can’t directly apply to the government.)

On Thursday, with Capital Ones portal still unable to accept Chans application, the fund was depleted.

It was not until the day before, on Wednesday, April 15, Chan said, that the bank informed him of the reason for the delay. “They said they are working on the process of getting their online platform functioning,” he told the Trib by phone. A bank representative, he said, told him the site is being tested with 50 businesses and the applications all stall, incomplete, at the same point. (In a message on the banks website on Thursday, Capital One said clients would receive an email when the bank was ready to receive their applications for what it hopes will be additional funding by Congress.)

As the days passed, Chan grew angrier over the lack of information coming from the bank. In emails obtained by the Trib, Kerry Owens, Capital One’s director of business banking in the New York corporate office, responded on April 6 to Chan’s request for information, relayed by the bank’s manager, David Cuevas: “Listen guys, Capital One is still not taking applications. I will have more details shortly. I’ve been on calls back to back gathering information.”

Two days later, and five days after lenders could begin processing applications, an email to Chan by Cuevas expressed sympathy for the owner’s plight. But he also acknowledged his helplessness in explaining the problem, much less fixing it. He wrote that he and Owens “are working hard with our partners to get clarity around this program and process, to be able to provide clear and accurate answers…”

Owens and Capital One spokespersons did not respond to emailed questions from the Trib. Reached by phone, Cuevas said he is not authorized to speak to the press. 

Fed up, and unable to remain open for more than an estimated three weeks, Chan took to social media to plea for help. He asked customers to call the offices of Rep. Jarold Nadler and Sen. Chuck Schumer, and donate to a GoFundMe campaign he’d set up to help pay his workers and continue to serve the community.   

“The PPP Act is running out of funds and we are sure Kings Pharmacy will be lost in the waves of other small businesses scrambling to apply,” Chan announced on Instagram, adding, “When our doors are shuttered, you’ll know who to blame.”

Keeping the doors open may be especially important to the estimated 20 to 30 Tribeca customers who Chan said have tested positive for the coronavirus. Other residents also now rely on Kings Pharmacy for the prescription deliveries they tell him they can’t get elsewhere. “So they give us a call and we take care of it for them.”

On his GoFundMe page, Chan emphasizes that the pharmacy remains a reliable source of gloves, masks and disinfectants. “We are doing the best for you,” Chan says in his online appeal, “we need you to do the best you can for us.”