BROOKLYN - Many neighborhood bodegas, which are a cultural staple in Brooklyn, are under increasing financial strain and are struggling to stay open.

The stores, which are ubiquitous in the borough, often stay open late for customers in need of a late-night snack or gallon of milk. But with the city and state suffering through an economic downturn, many bodega owners say their business is suffering.

The bodega owners point to the high cost of produce and an increase in rent and utilities as sources of their problems. Consumers, especially those in low-income neighborhoods, are also being hit by the faltering economy, causing many to cut back on spending.

The National Association of Bodegas says this is a growing problem around the city as owners fight to keep costs stable.

"They don't come to buy, so we lose customers. We lose sales," says Jose Fernandez, of the bodega association. "We lose revenue and we ended up closing or we ended up laying off a lot of employees."

Many bodega owners say they are behind on their rent and have cut back on the stores? hours.