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B.C. restaurants need industry-specific government support to survive, association says

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The hard-hit restaurant industry is asking for more financial aid from the government, as the sector struggles with the pandemic restrictions. Ted Chernecki reports – May 13, 2021

B.C. restaurants need industry-specific subsidies to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an industry association warns.

Restaurants Canada says more than 45,000 food and beverage workers in B.C. still need to get back to work and it’s calling on the federal government to step up with a support package for the industry.

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“Restaurants are key to feeding British Columbia’s recovery and bringing back jobs, but first they need to survive,” Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada vice-president for Western Canada, said.

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The association wants the industry to get an extension on existing federal rent and wage subsidies along with increased tax credits and partial forgiveness on government-backed loans.

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“If subsidies are scaled back too soon, (restaurants) won’t have the working capital they need to transition from survival to revival,” von Schellwitz said.

Restaurants Canada cited Statistics Canada data that indicates more than 71 per cent of the 503,000 jobs missing from the Canadian economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic are from the food service sector.

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It said there are 437,000 fewer people working in the sector than there were in February 2020.

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The association says half of Canada’s restaurants face the risk of closure if subsidies are scaled back too soon.

“The vast majority of food service businesses have been operating at a loss or barely breaking even throughout the entire pandemic, with nearly half consistently losing money for more than a year,” von Schellwitz said.

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“They have been counting on the rent and wage subsidies to be the bridge they need to stay alive until dining restrictions are lifted and they can truly start to recover without the help of emergency support.”

Provincial health orders implemented in late March state all food and liquor-serving premises must only provide takeout or delivery service. Dine-in service is prohibited, except for outdoor patios.

The order is in effect until March 24 at midnight, according to the B.C. government.

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— With files from Richard Zussman

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