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Coronavirus: Montreal bars worried they’ll go out of business

Crescent street bars are worried the lack of financial aid will put them out of business.
Crescent street bars are worried the lack of financial aid will put them out of business. Sebastien Gagnon-Dorval / Global News

COVID-19 has forced businesses across Canada to shut their doors indefinitely and now bar owners say they’re being shunned from financial compensation.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the new Business Credit Availability Program, which will provide more than $10 billion in additional support to businesses through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada.

The reaction at first was positive when bar owners found out they’d be eligible for compensation, according to the Crescent Street Merchants Association. But that quickly took a turn for the worst.

The Business Development Bank of Canada’s (BDC) application for financing excludes the following businesses:

  • Bars
  • Lounges, similar establishments
  • Casinos, bingo halls, racetracks, online gambling sites, etc.
  • Pawnshops and “quasi-financial institutions”
  • Anything in the sex industry
  • Businesses that incite any form of violence, hatred or discrimination
“It’s all very disappointing. The reaction is unanimous,” said Sandy Greene, director of The Crescent Street Merchants Association. “[Bars] are lumped in a category between sexual exploitation and illegal activities.”
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READ MORE: Coronavirus in Quebec: local businesses closing, struggling amidst COVID-19 pandemic

“Really? We’re in the same category as sex traffickers? This is what the government thinks of us?” said Cresent Merchant’s Association president Steve Siozios. “We don’t deserve that kind of treatment.”

Crescent street was for a long time known for its nightlife and bar scene. Many bars still stand strong in the area, but many worry the pandemic and lack of financial aid will push them out of business.

“Our merchants are extremely disappointed that our hard-working men and women, which help move the economy and create jobs, are being treated as though their very legal activities are somehow morally reprehensible and unworthy of saving,” said Greene in a press release.

READ MORE: Trudeau unveils $82B in aid for families, business amid coronavirus uncertainty

Siozios said he’s worried the money will go to big corporations and leave smaller businesses to die.

The association’s president points out that many bar owners were already having trouble with “[some] predator landlords that have been plaguing the city” and that this lack of aid will make matters worse.

“Landlords are salivating at the idea of smaller businesses not being able to pay their rent,” said Siozios.

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—  With files from Global’s Erica Alini and Hannah Jackson