Restaurants and small businesses demand compensation as Ontario lockdown expected

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News that Ontario is going back into widespread lockdowns to control the COVID-19 pandemic is leading to demands for compensation from small business and restaurant groups.

The Canadian Press has learned that Ontario is expected to announce Thursday a 28-day provincewide “shutdown” to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The change, coming just two weeks after opening the province to outdoor dining, is “devastating” for members of his organization, said Todd Barclay, CEO of Restaurants Canada.

If the province carries out the ban it must offer compensation for restaurateurs who have been hiring staff and stocking their shelves with food over the past two weeks, he said, and cover rent, utility and other costs for the duration of the lockdown.

“Two weeks ago, medical officers of health were out discussing the fact that outdoor gathering is good for mental health and is a safe way for people to congregate and here we are, less than two weeks later, being told there’s a potential we’ll be shut down again,” he said.

“The lockdown should be across all sectors, because effectively what I’m hearing they’re going to do is what’s been happening in Toronto for the last six months and it hasn’t worked.”

The restaurant sector has been “scapegoated” even though it’s not a significant part of the problem, Barclay said.

The recent easing of rules allowed outdoor dining with physical distancing in areas in the grey or lockdown zones like Toronto and Peel, after months of only allowing takeout.

The changes allowed eateries in the province’s second-strictest red category to increase capacity to 50 people indoors, up from the previous limit of 10, while restaurants in orange zones could have 100 people indoors, twice the previous cap of 50.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said Thursday it wants all provincial governments to look at lockdown alternatives and increased financial support for small businesses as several jurisdictions move to tougher restrictions.

“Small businesses are tired of being a scapegoat for the Ontario government’s lack of planning or foresight,” said Ryan Mallough, CFIB director of provincial affairs for Ontario, in a statement.

“For months, they have been told that there is light at the end of the tunnel or a new announcement that’s a ‘game changer,’ and for months nothing has changed.”

He said Toronto and Peel have been largely shut down since November while COVID-19 cases rise and fall with thousands of small businesses never seeing a single customer.

CFIB president Dan Kelly says the first two shutdowns were devastating with one in six businesses considering permanent closure.

The group says a survey found that two thirds of small businesses would consider using COVID-19 rapid tests to remain open.

CFIB says Canadian small businesses on average have taken on $170,000 in COVID-19-related debt.

It says three quarters of respondents said it will take more than a year to pay off.

5 COMMENTS

  1. It would have been better setting up mass vaccination of EVERYONE in the GTA. This is the hotbed so to speak of the virus cases.

  2. Compensation for patio furniture, food, and hiring people? You’ll be able to use the furniture when this is over, you’re still allowed to sell the food as take-out and if you paid wages to the people you hired it’s because they were working and bringing in revenue. Businesses remind me of that old Dire Straits song “Money for nothing..”

    • It’s not that simple. As a small business owner I can definitively state that a lockdown or restrictions hurt business simply from paranoia and fear alone. Locally the municipality announced a reduction in restrictions for patio and outdoor dining which means greater staffing is required. It takes time to onboard and train new staff, plus mandatory safety training plus other mandatory training like smart serve. Restaurant (and commercial) furniture is expensive and to take on thousands of extra dollars in payments while seeing a serious reduction in revenue is extremely damaging for a businesses.
      How long do you really expect this one to last? We’re over a year into “14 days to flatten the curve”. You’re clearly aren’t a small business owner otherwise you wouldn’t be making such statements fraught with ignorance.

  3. I’m a small business owner and I don’t want compensation – I want an end to arbitrary and ineffective lockdowns. I want a PM to put Canadians first and stop allowing so many loopholes & exemptions for foreign/international travel which has brough COVID and variants to Canada. I want an end to the lies and manipulation just to gain & retain power.

  4. all in for compensation. The downside is taxpayers will be footing the bill, not the dimwit politicians who will still be getting paid their wage as well as a 5% increase to boot. Lockdowns have already shown to be ineffective in the number of positive cases yet here we go again with another

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