ORHMA urges changes to Ontario’s COVID-19 response

The Ontario Restaurant, Hotel, and Motel Association (ORHMA) has written to the province to make two recommendations for how Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework could be amended to lessen the impact on the foodservice and hospitality industries.

Noting that the government will rely on its framework as certain areas reopen for business after the winter shutdown, ORHMA says its two recommended adjustments will “support many restaurants to stay afloat” and “ensure progressive support for hospitality ownerships and workers who are devastated from the economic impact and the emotional toll the COVID-19 pandemic has exerted.”

Firstly, ORHMA says that the province’s mandate for businesses to restrict indoor seating capacity in establishments to 10 in the Red-Control Zone or 50 in the Orange-Restrict Zone is not financially viable for those with much larger spaces and configuration capabilities.

Instead, the association recommends instead using a percentage calculation related to the total licensed seating capacity, similar to what has been used in other jurisdictions. ORHMA proposes this percentage, between 25 and 40 per cent depending on which Zone a region is in, be capped at 100 patrons in the Orange and Red Zones.

In addition, ORHMA states the current cut-off of 9 p.m. for serving alcoholic beverages for establishments in the Orange and Red Zones “drastically limits restaurant’s normal customer seating plan.” It recommends expanding that time restriction by at least one hour to 10 p.m., which “will allow the establishments to have a vital third dinner sitting starting at 9:30 pm.

As context for its recommendations, ORHMA letter notes that 27 per cent of Ontario hospitality workers have yet to return to work, which represents close to 50 per cent of all provincial sector workers and 37 per cent of the country’s unemployed hospitality workforce.

The recommended amendments to Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework can be read in full here.

In addition, ORHMA has urged the province to cut Ontario beverage alcohol pricing to support the province’s foodservice and hospitality establishments.

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