A proposal that would see property and business taxes for restaurants slashed by 10 per cent has been put in front of Winnipeg city council.
Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Kevin Klein revealed the motion at city hall on Monday morning, joined by three local restaurant owners representing WOW Hospitality, the Gates on Roblin, and Silver Heights restaurant.
“This is the right thing to do, it’s economically smart, and it’s good for our city to start making sure that we have the right footing for our economy to kick-start when the pandemic is over,” Klein said, while explaining the details of his new proposal.
If passed by city council, the tax break would be available to any Winnipeg restaurant that has paid its taxes in full by the end of November. Klein estimates the program will cost the city between $2 million and $3 million.
Programs have been made available to those in the restaurant industry by other levels of government, while the city of Winnipeg recently extended property and business tax deferrals until the end of November.
“We have to find ways to not incur more debt load so deferrals aren’t the answer. We’re asking for forgiveness on whatever we can. We’re asking for every little bit that we can get in terms of aide,” says Ray Louie, the owner of the Gates on Roblin restaurant and wedding venue.
Louie says he was forced to cancel 31 weddings the day after level orange restrictions were implemented by the province last Monday.
At his establishment, which sits on Roblin Boulevard just outside of the perimeter, staffing levels are still far from what they usually are for this time of year.
“I’m down to about 19 staff right now. Usually, my staffing levels are in the 60s and 70s over the course of summer and fall,” Louie said.
Tony Siwicki, the owner at Silver Heights Restaurant and Lounge, was also present at city hall while the new motion was revealed.
Siwicki says he’s been able to hire back almost 75 per cent of his staff since the beginning of the pandemic, but ever since level orange restrictions came into effect last week, business has got even slower.
“We lost pretty much every reservation, and with the added costs to all the PPE, shields, sanitization and no customers coming in. Our industry is 100 per cent customer based, and with a fear of all the customers not coming out, we’re in a lot of trouble.”
If Coun. Klein’s proposed tax cut makes its way through city council, Siwicki says the assist would be much appreciated.
“Any little help will help and right now there isn’t any. Right now, we’re paying more and receiving less so anything helps.”
Siwicki added that any additional restrictions implemented without some financial relief will almost certainly lead to more layoffs at Silver Heights.