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$26K a month in rent with $0 coming in: London, Ont. business owner outlines impact of coronavirus

Business owner Harold Duesbury says rent is a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic. London Fine Furniture/Facebook

London Fine Furniture on Wharncliffe Road South is closed, its staff laid off, and heat and hydro are shut off, but the company is still on the hook for about $26,500 in monthly rent, including HST, according to owner Harold Duesbury.

“With zero dollars coming in and still having bills to pay, it makes it very tight,” he said.

Duesbury believes he’ll be OK — he is “trying to work something out” with his landlords, who he says have been good to him over the years — but many of his friends who are restaurant owners or other small business owners are wondering if their businesses will survive the coronavirus pandemic.

“A lot of them are telling me if this goes on for a couple of months that they’re probably going to go out of business.”

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It’s a concern shared by many small businesses in Canada, according to a recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) conducted before announcements from the Ontario and Quebec governments ordering non-essential businesses to close.

A quarter of the businesses surveyed said they didn’t think they could survive a month if their sales were cut in half, while 39 per cent said they could survive one to three months.

“The stores beside me — I’ve got The Brick on one side and Bad Boy on the other and Leon’s across the road — those stores are still open because they sell appliances. The only issue I’ve got with that setup is: every sofa they sell, every dining room set they sell, every piece of artwork they sell is a sale that I had zero chance to get. That makes it that much tougher.”

READ MORE: What is an essential service? After groceries, it depends where you live in Canada

When asked about the possibility of online sales, Duesbury says it’s not practical.

“The unfortunate part for my business is we sell all Canadian-made furniture that’s customizable. I’ve got some things that have 65 different knob choices and six different woods to choose from. It’s almost impossible to sell online.”

Duesbury is hoping the government will provide more help to small business owners outside of loans.

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“I know they’ve got this $40,000 loan at zero per cent interest, but there we are again going into more debt,” he said.

“For me, when we switched over from Children’s Furniture Gallery to London Fine Furniture a couple years ago, it’s like starting all over again. My wife and I have put a lot of our own money into the business, plus we’ve gone into debt up to our eyeballs to switch over and I really don’t need any more debt.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus is hurting small businesses. Here’s how to help

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

Click to play video: 'How to support local businesses through COVID-19 pandemic' How to support local businesses through COVID-19 pandemic
How to support local businesses through COVID-19 pandemic – Mar 14, 2020

— with files from Global News’ Laura Hensley.

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