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Coronavirus: 61% of Toronto businesses would close down in 3 months, survey says

King Street West restaurants closed due to COVID-19 preventative measure in Toronto, Ont. on March 17, 2020.
King Street West restaurants closed due to COVID-19 preventative measure in Toronto, Ont. on March 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Dominic Chan

A survey that looked at businesses in Toronto found that 61 per cent will not survive over the next three months, without much needed rent relief, due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also said that 76 per cent of businesses would close down for good within five months.

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The survey, conducted by Broadview-Danforth BIA – on behalf of dozens of Toronto BIAs, surveyed 561 small business tenants and 137 landlords across the city.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Small business closures threaten Toronto’s culture, owners say

According to tenants in the survey, 50 per cent of businesses could not make April’s rent, and 72 per cent of businesses feel they will not make all of May’s rent.

Meanwhile, landlords in the survey indicated that 74 per cent of them did not receive all of April’s rent, and 82 per cent of landlords feel they will not receive all of May’s rent either.

Number of months before Toronto businesses would have to close for good.
Number of months before Toronto businesses would have to close for good. Courtesy: Broadview-Danforth BIA

On March 24, the Ontario government ordered all non-essential businesses to close which still remains in place. Restaurants and bars were forced to close dining areas and switch to take-out and delivery options only. Other businesses were told to switch to curb-side pick up.

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On April 3, the Ontario government lowered the number of essential workplace categories to 44 from 74.

Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario Premier Doug Ford orders all non-essential businesses to close
Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario Premier Doug Ford orders all non-essential businesses to close

The majority of those surveyed said that the current 75 per cent federal wage subsidy program and the $40,000 payroll loan does not help them as many are closed or don’t have enough staff to qualify.

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Landlords and business owners are calling for a rent relief bailout – 84 per cent of businesses and 72 per cent of landlords said rent relief bailout would help.

“What we really need is rent relief. Both businesses and landlords agree that loans and wage subsidies are not enough. We need to be able to pay rent and that’s becoming extremely difficult,” Ginger Robertson, owner of The Edmund Burke and Off the Hook, said in the survey.

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“Without any rent relief assistance, many of us will have to shut down. Our main streets won’t look the same when we come out of this. The survey clearly shows what’s not working and what’s most needed,” another business owner, Nathan Hynes of The Auld Spot Pub on Danforth said in the survey.

When it came to no strings attached government business loans; reduced interest on existing loans, mortgages credit cards; commercial property tax deferrals; and utility deferrals most were divided on if these help businesses and landlords or not.

To what degree do programs/suggestions help Toronto business owners.
To what degree do programs/suggestions help Toronto business owners. Courtesy: Broadview-Danforth BIA
To what degree do programs/suggestions help Toronto landlords.
To what degree do programs/suggestions help Toronto landlords. Courtesy: Broadview-Danforth BIA

The survey also said that businesses are “extremely concerned about the amount of debt they will have when this is done.”

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“Before this survey we could only speculate on the impact of the pandemic on our Main Streets. Now we know that without rent relief many businesses simply will not be able to re-open,” Toronto City Councillor Paula Fletcher said. “The clock is ticking for the future of small business in this city.”