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121K B.C. hospitality workers off the job, 28% of restaurants risk going under: survey

B.C. restaurant industry being decimated by the coronavirus lockdown
WATCH: B.C. restaurant industry being decimated by the coronavirus lockdown

B.C.’s restaurant industry is hanging on by a thread, as lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic appear set to persist until at least the summer.

Industry organization Restaurants Canada says a new survey of businesses found 10 per cent of the country’s restaurants have already closed for good, with another 18 per cent at risk of going under by the end of April.

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

Restaurants Canada western Canada vice-president Mark von Schellwitz said more than 800,000 Canadian restaurant workers are currently off the job.

“In British Columbia that equates to about 121,500 jobs alone that might not be able to return if current conditions continue this way,” said

“We’ve got many, many restaurateurs that are struggling to pay their rent and other bills in April that are due with no income to pay them.”

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Popular Canadian chain restaurant to start selling groceries
Popular Canadian chain restaurant to start selling groceries

Robyn Edwards, general manager of Cafe Barney on Main Street in Vancouver, said even though her company owns their property they’re still nervous.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Amid record job losses, Nova Scotia restaurant owners innovate

“On a good day, keeping a restaurant open and running in Vancouver is close to impossible,” she said.

“We’re concerned that we’ll re-open at the end of all of this — regardless of getting back to some sort of normalcy — [and] people will be afraid to go out, they’ll be low on income right out of the gate.”

Edwards estimated that even if the shutdown were to last for just one or two months, it would take the restaurant six months to get back on its feet.

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Coronavirus: B.C. restaurant owners pleading with federal government for help
Coronavirus: B.C. restaurant owners pleading with federal government for help

In the interim, the company’s staff aren’t working.

The B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association estimates the province’s restaurant industry generates more than $13 billion in economic activity annually and employs more than 180,000 people.

Von Schellwitz said it is the third largest employer in the province, and contributes about five per cent to B.C.’s GDP.

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

Restaurants in B.C. have been ordered to cease dine-in service, and while many have shifted to take-out, bringing in enough cash to cover the bills remains a challenge.

Von Schellwitz said the industry is calling on the government to help coordinate rent relief and no-eviction orders to protect restaurants who have little or no cash flow during the shutdown.

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He said restaurants also need access to working capital, as many have already drained their cash reserves.

READ MORE: Canadian restaurant chain starts selling groceries amid coronavirus shutdown

With such depleted revenues, taking advantage of the federal government’s 75-per cent wage subsidy is also difficult.

Von Schellwitz government to expand the qualifying conditions and time period for the subsidy to help keep workers on payroll and allow those who have been laid off to be rehired.