Half of Canadian restaurants may not survive summer 2021 if the current level of COVID-19 support is reduced as planned in early July, warns Restaurants Canada.
The federal government is currently planning to scale back the level of rent and wage subsidies available to businesses after Canada Day weekend on July 4.
If that does indeed happen for foodservice businesses, Restaurants Canada predicts that most restaurants will struggle to keep paying staff and suppliers and might have to consider closing down for good.
The industry organization has warned that an exception must be made for the foodservice industry, which has been decimated more than most by the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
A Restaurant Survival Coalition of customers, industry professionals, and suppliers is calling on the government to keep the current higher levels of support in place for those foodservice businesses that are still operating under ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.
“Even with most provinces moving forward with reopening plans, restaurants across the country will still be operating at reduced capacity for the next few months,” said Restaurants Canada President and CEO Todd Barclay. “This is not the time to start reeling in the lifeline. Most restaurants have been losing money or barely scraping by nearly every day of the pandemic and will need at least a year to return to some semblance of normal. Half our industry will face risk of closure if government support is scaled back too soon.”
Restaurants Canada notes that eight out of 10 restaurants have been operating at a loss or barely scraping by throughout the entire pandemic and that 45 per cent of all foodservice businesses have been consistently losing money for more than a year.
The Coalition’s members have been sending postcards to their MPs across the country and federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in Ottawa, demanding an immediate change of plans.
“We have managed to survive so far, but with the latest setback and still at half capacity with social distancing… we need the wage subsidy and rent subsidy through the summer to help us through,” says Saskia Geerts, Owner, Sydney Street Pub, Digby, Nova Scotia. “Instead of paying down debt, I’ve added on debt. A big burden for the future to come.”
Zoey Dassios, owner of Chicago Pub & Billiards in Kitchener, Ont., says: “This restaurant has been around for 11 years. We are a neighbourhood pub with lots of regulars who have helped us survive during this difficult time. But it is not enough. If we close, these customers lose their second home staff lose their jobs and I lose my business that I put so much into.”
“We employ 1,000 people, we purchase 20,000,000 in food supplies many from local farmers in Ontario,” adds Peter Higley, President of Pickle Barrel in Toronto. “We are a pillar in the community supporting charities throughout the province. We have been in business for 50 years. We need help to continue for another 50.”
Anyone who wants to join the Restaurant Survival Coalition and help save local foodservice businesses can visit SupportRestaurants.ca to get started by sending a postcard of their own.