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B.C. restaurant owners plead for government help amid coronavirus crisis in new campaign

New federal help for small and medium-sized businesses
WATCH: (Aired March 27) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unveiled new help for small and medium-sized businesses, that he says will help them hire back laid-off workers. Brad MacLeod reports.

B.C.’s restaurant industry has joined a national campaign calling on the federal government to provide immediate relief and protection for restaurant owners and staff suffering through the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The #OneTable campaign has released videos online and through social media featuring restaurant owners in B.C. and Ontario who candidly share how public health orders have impacted their business and staff, and say help is urgently needed.

“Right now, what we need is someone to loosen the noose around our necks,” Scott Jaegar, owner of the Pear Tree Restaurant in Burnaby, says in one of the videos.

Meeru Dhalwala, co-owner of the famous Vij’s Indian restaurant in Vancouver and several other eateries, says the company has seen a 90 per cent loss in revenue this month.

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“We are not just a bunch of individual restaurant owners,” she says in the same B.C.-focused video. “We are families, and we are crucial to the future of this country.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. will allow restaurants to deliver liquor, using unemployed servers

Other owners talk about having to lay off their entire staff after the province issued a health order banning dine-in service at restaurants, allowing only takeout or delivery.

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Farmers, foragers and other producers who provide food to restaurants like Forage have also suffered and may be irreparably harmed, Forage owner Margot Baloro says in the video.

B.C.’s top doctor orders all bars, entertainment venues closed to fight COVID-19 pandemic
B.C.’s top doctor orders all bars, entertainment venues closed to fight COVID-19 pandemic

The owners are asking the government for help coordinating a minimum three-month rent abatement with restaurant landlords and a delay in HST payments, along with business interruption grants to support businesses and affected families.

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They’re also calling for protection from evictions and the Canada Revenue Agency, saying simply deferring taxes will only increase restaurants’ debt load and put them under threat of bankruptcy.

READ MORE: Coronavirus pandemic could see 15% of B.C. restaurants close for good, says industry

The campaign was launched by the Restaurants Canada and the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association (BCRFA), the latter of whom has already warned up to 15 per cent of B.C. restaurants could close for good due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal and provincial governments have announced relief for businesses and workers impacted by the pandemic and resulting health guidelines, including new income assistance programs and speeding up access to Employment Insurance.

Ottawa announced late last week it would increase the federal subsidy for small and medium businesses to 75 per cent.