ORHMA outraged as Ontario ignores restaurants again

Following Ontario’s announcement on October 8 that capacity limits will be eased or removed for numerous businesses and sectors, the president of the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel, and Motel Association (ORHMA) says he is “outraged” that restaurants have been omitted.

“We are extremely disappointed and this is not right or fair to a sector that has been suffering for 18 months of COVID-19 hardships and devastation,” said Tony Elenis in a statement. “We were the first to close and continue to suffer with capacity limits and imposed pressure of vaccine passport verification.”

Elenis adds that ORHMA is “outraged” that restaurants continue to be penalized with “punitive” restrictions.

“We know expenses have climbed in food cost, payroll, and from the whole supply chain. Bank and personal financial loans are added to your overall costs of keeping the doors open and all are waiting for signs of positive recovery. We all know limiting restaurant capacity brings revenue limitations to support growth to the bottom line. Restaurants are truly the hardest hit.”

Since the announcement on October 8, ORHMA has contacted Premier Doug Ford to urge him to lift capacity restrictions in restaurants. 

“The industry is discouraged when they see larger venues being opened with huge attendance, compared to hospitality rooms where it’s easier to manage, and easier to follow safety protocols,” Elenis added, via CTV News. “Restaurants are operating with a mandated vaccination program and this is the tool that can make it possible to increase capacity.”

A survey by Restaurants Canada shows that 80 per cent of restaurants are just breaking even or losing money, and Elenis stresses their current expenses are “overwhelming”.

“They are paying bank loans, personal loans and some of them have mortgaged their own homes. Prices have gone up, labour costs have gone up and the capacity limitations prevent the necessary revenue needed to sustain a business. They need that extra seating.”

ORHMA, in addition to other industry associations like Restaurants Canada, has been continually calling on the province to lift all further restrictions on the industry.

Meanwhile, ORHMA is also lobbying the government to continue to provide wage and fixed-cost support until necessary public health restrictions are lifted and normal travel and events can resume. The association stresses an extension of CEWS and CERS at a subsidy rate of 20 per cent will not be
enough, and urges that a new, tailored wage and fixed-cost support program be established at the earliest opportunity.

The association did, however, “applaud” the government for announcing a plan to introduce legislation to allow a significant portion of the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB)’s current reserve to be distributed to employers. WSIB’s average premium rate for 2022 will decrease by 5.1 per cent, falling to $1.30/$100 premiums from 2021’s rate of $1.37/$100 premiums. Under the new classification, hotels and restaurants are listed under the Leisure and Hospitality category, meaning the 2022 class rate drops to 94 cents from the 2021 rate of $1.05.