Small businesses struggle to stay afloat as Ontario reopens amid pandemic

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As parts of Ontario prepare to enter Phase 3 on Friday, small businesses in Toronto are still grappling with the challenges of reopening.Alan Liu, general manager of Salad King, a Thai restaurant near Yonge-Dundas Square, has already spent $ 5,000 on plexiglass barriers to separate stands and an additional $ 2,000 on staff; protective equipment (PPE) for personnel filling take out and delivery orders. It will also have to hire more employees.

“We don’t even know if we’ll be able to break away from the investment we’re making,” he said.

Toronto, Region of Peel and Windsor-Essex will not yet move to Stage 3 as the province and public health authorities closely monitor trends in their number of COVID-19 cases, their rates of infection and their health care capacity.

But even if Stage 3 is only a week or two away, many store owners and restaurateurs worry that their income won’t make up for all the money they lost and what they have to spend to meet. COVID-19 restrictions.

We don’t even know if we will be able to break even.– Alan Liu, Managing Director, Salad King

Many companies say they incur additional costs associated with purchasing masks and PPE for customers and employees, as well as other measures to ensure physical distancing. They say they are not generating enough income to offset these expenses.

Liu suspects that the costs associated with operating the restaurant at about a third of its capacity for security will mean its income will be very low. Part of the reason is that a large portion of its clients are Ryerson University students and office workers, who may not be returning to the area anytime soon.

“It will be a leap of faith to see if we can be successful once we reopen. “

Infection prevention costs

To make up for some of this lost revenue, other companies like Physioplus Health Group have started charging customers an “infection prevention fee” of $ 5.

“We really don’t have a lot of choice,” said owner Michelle DeMarchi. “We’re just trying to survive. “

Michelle DeMarchi, owner of Physioplus Health Group, says she has been forced to charge “infection prevention fees” to help offset costs. (Submitted by Michelle DeMarchi)

The fee is intended to help the clinic cover the cost of disinfection and hire another worker to help screen clients.

“This is the first time I’ve looked at him thinking, ‘I don’t know how long I can keep the doors open. ”

According to DeMarchi, the clinic is in debt of $ 95,000, mainly because its owner did not apply to the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program.

These small businesses are not alone. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce says many of its members have an uncertain future as the province reopens.

“It’s very widespread,” said chamber president Rocco Rossi.

“Especially for small and medium-sized businesses that don’t have the same capital capacity as some of the larger businesses. “

Switch off

Dino Ari, owner of Dino’s Wood Burning Pizza, had to close one of his restaurants. (Submitted by Dino Ari)

For many, that means making the difficult decision to shut down for good.

Dino Ari owned three restaurants under the name Dino’s Wood Burning Pizza.

In March, he decided to shut down an establishment because it was thriving mainly on customers at the restaurant.

“If you are closed, you have no income,” he says. “It hurts each of us. ”

Fortunately, he said, his other two locations rely heavily on delivery and take-out, which has helped him stay afloat.

Despite some of these challenges, many small business owners are willing to take a chance. For Liu, it’s a simple decision to keep Salad King open.

“For our customers, for the neighborhood, we will try to do it. “

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