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Groups call for urgent action to help restaurant industry survive pandemic


July 21, 2020
By Canadian Pizza

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Photo credit: © Rido / Adobe Stock

An alliance of chambers of commerce and boards of trade across Canada is calling for “urgent action” from three levels of government to help restaurants survive the economic effects the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian Business Resilience Network, which includes Restaurants Canada and Molson Coors, published a joint open letter to the Prime Minister, Council of the Federation and Federation of Canadian Municipalities highlighting ways government can help the industry recover.

“As our country went into the necessary lockdown, governments of all sizes and types worked together to get Canadians through the crisis. Many businesses are now working to reopen and recover. However for the food service industry, the picture is different.

“Food service locations already operate on thin margins when tables are full, given high fixed costs, a seasonal nature, being highly liquid, and working with a perishable inventory. The reality now with COVID-19 in our midst for the foreseeable future is that the necessary safety requirements both limit revenue and further increase costs. Continued operation for the majority of our restaurants is, at best, uncertain. Government programs as they are presently designed are not equipped for the timescale of this ongoing reality for this industry.”

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Among actions items they are calling for:

Federal

  • Implement the proposed Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) improvements and continue to create incentives for Canadians to return to work.
  • Eliminate the automatic annual federal excise tax increase on beer, wine, and spirits.
  • Start to encourage Canadians to return to pre-COVID activities while observing safety measures, such as masks.

Joint Federal-Provincial/Territorial

Extend the CECRA program, remove parent company revenue eligibility cap (removing the cap would prevent franchisees from falling through the cracks), and explore a means to substantially increase program subscription.

Provincial/Territorial

  • Implement and monitor a commercial eviction moratorium.
  • Expand liquor licencing, or make permanent COVID-related licencing changes, to allow more restaurants to offer alcohol sales (including for take-out).

Municipal

  • Reduction or deferral of property taxes, patio fees, utility fees, and other fees as relevant.
  • Ease regulatory burdens, which assist the industry without impacting government budgets.

Delays will risk the situation rapidly becoming permanently untenable, the letter said.

“Our restaurants are cornerstones of communities of all sizes across Canada. They’re meeting places for business and pleasure; they’re where we celebrate; they’re where we gather to mourn a loss. . . . Canadians are connected deeply to ‘their’ local pub, or ‘their’ late-night takeout spot.”

Read the letter in full.