By Ali Raza, reporter from the Local Journalism Initiative
Businesses in East Toronto fear closing after the province placed Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Ottawa in its amended second stage of its COVID-19 reopening plan earlier this month – this.
A modified Stage 2 means that restaurants, bars and other catering establishments such as nightclubs will no longer be allowed to provide indoor catering. Fitness centers, gymnasiums and cinemas are also closed. Business improvement areas in the community fear that the decision announced by Premier Doug Ford on October 9 could have “devastating effects.”
Ford announced on October 16 that York Region would also revert to a modified Stage 2. He added in the initial announcement for Toronto that she would stay in Stage 2 for 28 days.
“Twenty-eight days is a lot,” said Dominic Cobran, Leslieville BIA coordinator. “The rental period is within these 28 days.”
Cobran understands the premier’s decision, he said, but highlighted the fact that several establishments in Leslieville have invested heavily in personal protective equipment (PPE) and strategies for providing meals indoors with a distance physical despite limited capacity.
“Small businesses have done their best to comply with public health protocols,” Cobran said. “To bring an entire industry to its knees, however, we might want to consider another approach. Maybe tighten up the app, tighten up the measurements, here are some suggestions. ”
On October 7, data from Toronto Public Health showed that bars and restaurants in Toronto were responsible for 34% of COVID-19 outbreaks in the city.
Since several small companies in the industry have followed public health guidelines and invested in PPE, Cobran believes large restaurants are responsible for the weight of the data.
“You can’t punish a whole industry in the city,” he says. “Let’s look at other options.”
Beach Village BIA executive director Anna Sebert said that while the move had an additional impact on beach restaurants, it also risked increasing debt for businesses.
“The businesses affected by the modified Stage 2 are the ones that have been the most financially fragile during COVID,” she said. “Reversing will have a huge negative impact on them, especially as we move into the colder season when foot traffic decreases.”
“These companies are going to struggle and optimism for the future is waning,” Sebert added.
Providing take out or pick up, being present on all online delivery apps (including those with high fees), doing social media marketing to account for loss of foot traffic, all while lacking in revenue from indoor catering, are overwhelming challenges for business owners. the worst, Sebert explained.
As for the Beaches fitness studios, they’ve been online since March, with a small interior services window.
“It’s not enough to make ends meet,” Sebert said. “Many are struggling to pay their expenses now and are getting more and more into debt.”
Small business tenants who rely on the Canada Emergency Rent Grant – announced by the federal government on the same day Toronto returned to Stage 2 – can have 65% of eligible expenses covered until Dec. 19, 2020.
Sebert said that while it helps, some businesses won’t see money until November – after the rent is due.
After moving the affected areas to the amended Stage 2, Ford also announced that the province would offer small businesses $ 300 million in relief, but no details were provided.
The city of Toronto has offered programs – DineOutTO and CafeTO – to help businesses affected by COVID-19, which remain in place. DineOutTO, which offers restaurant exposure via a digital platform, ends October 30. CafeTO, launched this summer to provide more outdoor dining areas, will inevitably be affected by the colder weather.
The city also deferred property taxes and utility bills during the pandemic, leaving rent as the main financial challenge for several businesses. An urban partnership with RitualOne also helped restaurants through an online ordering system.
A survey by the Toronto Area Chamber of Commerce showed that 63% of business owners struggle to implement digital tools to increase their income. In response, it launched the Recovery Activation Program to help businesses go digital at no cost.
Daily rates of COVID-19 infection in the province remained above 700 last week. As businesses prepare to weather the storm, they are seeking community support.
“Everyone knows how important it is to spend locally, but now is the time to take it seriously,” Sebert said.
“Please support our restaurants through take-out, delivery or a patio experience,” said Albert Stortchak, President of Broadview-Danforth BIA. “It’s mid-October, so there are only a few weeks left before the rent and fixed cost bills are due. Small businesses need help now. ”
“Residents should remember that charm is always there in Leslieville, restaurants like these are an integral part of our economic and social fabric,” said Cobran. “Help them stay afloat.”
- Ali Raza is a reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative for Beach Metro News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada as part of its Local Journalism Initiative.