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Canadian restaurants group lobbies for government relief


April 1, 2020
By Canadian Pizza

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A lobby group called Save Hospitality is calling on government to ensure EI benefits for laid-off staff, cease collecting property taxes for restaurants and hospitality-related businesses and other financial relief measures.

The group, which is co-organized by Erik Joyal and John Sinopoli – co-owners of Ascari Hospitality Group – Andrew Oliver of O&B, and Dyson Forbes of Facebook group Food and Wine Industry Navigator, has launched a petition calling for a wide array of government supports for impacted food businesses.

They are asking government to:

• Ensure immediate Employment Insurance benefits for all of our laid-off staff.

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“Our team members have been attempting to apply for EI for days, still with no confirmation of benefits from Service Canada,” the group says in its detailed plan. People are extremely anxious that their benefits will take weeks to arrive, as the current demand on the system is overwhelming. Any delay will leave them in an incredibly precarious financial situation. The federal government must immediately add capacity to these processing systems. We recommend Service Canada waive the waiting period for everyone laid off, not just those who are sick or caring for the sick.

• Ensure that normal EI benefits are supplemented to reflect the higher cost of living in our urban centres. They recommend hospitality staff be paid 100 per cent of their average hourly earnings to replace income generated from gratuities employees rely on.

• Cease the collection of commercial property taxes immediately for restaurants, bars, retail and hospitality-related businesses and their suppliers.

“We asked that commercial property taxes related to all hospitality venues be waived for 18 months from March 1, 2020,” the plan says. “A 60-day grace period has been provided for personal and business property taxes, along with water/sewer service and solid waste management, however, there has not yet been support offered with respect to electricity and natural gas utilities for businesses.”

• Issue a government directive for rent and additional rent amounts to be paused temporarily from April 1, until the government aid package outlined below can be finalized and implemented.

• Require insurance companies to cover business interruption during this time of mandated hospitality business closures. Currently, they are denying coverage for such claims.

• Require the abatement of all hospitality-related business loan payments from financial institutions. Most banks, including the BDC, are deferring the principal only and not the interest. All payments need to be deferred until the below recommended aid package can be implemented.

• Suspend all taxes owed to the federal and provincial governments including HST, EHT, source deduction obligations and corporate taxes, as well as remove any penalties and/or interest for current late payments. As long as returns for HST, EHT, and corporate taxes are filed on time (but without payment) businesses should not be penalized or charged interest.

• Waive WSIB payments for February and March 2020 (due March 31 and April 30, 2020, respectively), without penalty and interest for 90 days.

• Require credit card companies to lower all interest charges on cards held by hospitality and hospitality-related businesses, including merchant services providers (for example, fees and equipment leases/rental.

Learn more about the group at savehospitality.ca.