Nearly two dozen businesses and business groups have sent a letter to all levels of government asking that legislators help restaurants as they start opening their doors after being forced to close because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The letter, which mostly features signatures by representatives of chambers of commerce from coast to coast, states about 800,000 jobs have been lost in the industry since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said revenues for restaurants are down between 60 and 70 per cent.
The organizations have specific directives for federal, provincial and municipal governments which they say would ease the financial burden felt by restaurants.
The Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association (SHHA) said that even with partial dine-in service available, businesses are unable to cover losses.
“Our revenues … just have been devastated and although they are starting to creep back up, they’re nowhere close to where they need to be in order to survive,” president and CEO Jim Bence said.
The directives in the letter are:
- Implement the proposed Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) improvements and continue to create incentives for Canadians to return to work
- Eliminate the automatic annual federal excise tax increase on beer, wine, and spirits
- Start to encourage Canadians to return to pre-COVID activities while observing safety measures, such as masks
Joint Federal-Provincial/Territorial governments
- Extend the CECRA program, remove parent company revenue eligibility cap (removing the cap would prevent franchisees from falling through the cracks), and explore a means to substantially increase program subscription
- Implement and monitor a commercial eviction moratorium
- Expand liquor licensing, or make permanent COVID-related licensing changes, to allow more restaurants to offer alcohol sales (including for take-out)
- Reduction or deferral of property taxes, patio fees, utility fees, and other fees as relevant
- Ease regulatory burdens, which assist the industry without impacting government budgets
Some of these have already been addressed by the provincial government, like eviction protection and alcohol licensing changes.
The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce was one of the 21 organizations that signed the letter.
The chamber’s CEO told Global News that while these cost-saving measures will help, individuals and organizations can do things to support restaurants.
“You may say, ‘Well listen, I can’t go out to eat every single week.’ You’re right, but maybe you can buy your gift cards for your staff for Christmas presents now from those businesses to help support them,” Steve McLellan said. “There are all kinds of ways we can do it and we need to get serious.” said.
According to Restaurants Canada, about a third of foodservice employees are still out of work as of July 10.
An April survey of independent restaurants done by the organization said half of independent restaurants don’t expect to survive after the pandemic.
Bence hopes business can start to become creative during the pandemic to support the industry.
“So they would have the meals ordered in so that as a group you would have your dinner on a Zoom platform and enjoy your meal and have some good dinner conversation,” he added.
According to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce before the pandemic, the restaurant industry created one out of every 15 jobs.