Photo: The Canadian Press
Storefront space is shown on Queen Street in Toronto on Thursday, April 16, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is calling on provincial governments for foreclosure alternatives and increased financial support for small businesses.
Restaurant owners in Ontario reacted angrily to news on Thursday that the province would ban all indoor and outdoor food services for four weeks as part of an “emergency brake” to control the pandemic of COVID-19.
Restaurant owners said it was unfair not being able to serve their customers in person when other businesses are allowed to remain open with restrictions.
“I feel like no one knows what they’re doing. And it’s really scary, ”said Pam Viinikka, co-owner of two restaurants, The Cornerstone and Log Cabin Tavern, in Kenora, northern Ontario.
“There was no lockout when we had 100 cases and now they’re forcing us to lockout with just 11 and that’s ridiculous to me,” she said.
“It doesn’t make sense that you can have 300 people at Walmart, but you can’t have two people in a small business.”
She said her restaurants have good community support in terms of takeout and delivery, but the eating ban will hurt several of her 35 employees and end a recent hiring campaign.
The new restrictions are a “kick in the teeth,” said Mark Kitching, owner of Waldo’s on King in London, Ont., Who has said he will lay off many of his 16 employees and throw away unnecessary food .
“My business is booming. Sales are up from 2019, all staff are back, customers are happy. And now… even though no one has proven to anyone that restaurants are spreaders, we are becoming the target again, ”he said. .
“It seems so unfair to small business owners. ”
Court Desautels, CEO of the Neighborhood Business Group, which has four restaurants in Guelph and one in Kitchener, said three of its outlets are scheduled to open their patios on Thursday.
Instead, they demolish the big tents they had just erected for the spring.
He said he repatriated laid-off and hired staff and trained new workers after Ontario changed the rules two weeks ago to increase the maximum number of diners in Guelph from 10 to 50 per restaurant and 50 to 100 in Kitchener. restaurants.
“It looks like we opened the floodgates a little too quickly,” he says sadly.
“It’s a big success. We will lose money, even if all the subsidies are in place, simply because of the high rents we pay at two of our sites. ”
The changes are going to be “devastating” for members of his organization, said Todd Barclay, CEO of Restaurants Canada, who said the province should provide compensation to restaurateurs for the money spent in the past two weeks and to cover. rent, utilities and other costs. for the duration of the lockout.
“Two weeks ago, medical officers of health were discussing that outdoor gatherings are good for mental health and a safe way for people to gather,” he said in an interview.
“The lockdown should be across all industries because what I’m hearing is what’s been going on in Toronto for the past six months and it hasn’t worked.
The recent loosening of the rules has made it possible to eat al fresco with physical distancing in gray areas like Toronto and neighboring Peel, after months of only allowing take-out and deliveries.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said on Thursday it wants all governments to consider alternatives to lockdowns and increased financial support for small businesses as several provinces pass tougher restrictions.
“Small businesses are tired of being the scapegoat for the Ontario government’s lack of planning or foresight,” Ryan Mallough, CFIB’s director of provincial affairs for Ontario, said in a statement.
He said Toronto and Peel have largely been closed since November, as COVID-19 cases rise and fall, with thousands of small businesses never seeing a single customer.
According to CFIB President Dan Kelly, the first two closings were devastating, with one in six businesses considering a permanent shutdown.
According to the group, a survey found that two-thirds of small businesses would consider using COVID-19 rapid tests to stay open.