A Vancouver restaurateur says the province is being “insensitive” to small businesses by ending a property tax break implemented as a part of COVID-19 relief efforts last year.
Nguyet Dang, co-owner of Bonjour Vietnamese Bistro on Vancouver’s Fraser Street, says the reintroduction of the school tax on her business’ property will cost the restaurant about $5,500 more this year.
“I was in shock. I thought it was a mistake,” she said.
“I’m just a bit disappointed when I see the increase, because we just closed indoor dining for two months and we just reopened indoor dining three weeks ago. And here I got a bill of 45 per cent tax increase.”
Wednesday was the one-year anniversary for the bistro, which was forced to delay its launch by three months last year when the pandemic struck.
Since then, the company has been able to make ends meet, but not much more. It received a $10,000 pandemic relief grant for its forced closure during the spring “circuit breaker”, but because it’s a new business has not been eligible for any federal COVID-19 aid.
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“It’s not profitable for us,” she said. “But we manage to keep afloat and keep the business open.”
The measure, which was implemented in March 2020, saw the school tax cut in half for many British Columbia businesses, which the province said amounted to a 25 per cent property tax cut for most businesses.
But the province also says the one-time measure, which cost the province about $720 million, was only meant to apply to the 2020 tax year.
With vaccination rates rising and the province reopening, Finance Minister Selina Robinson said the province’s approach also had to change.
“We see a very different trajectory for ourselves. This year, our focus is really on taking the steps to help businesses that are most impacted.
“We’re seeing in the tourism sector, for example, significant challenges. And that’s where we’re really investing in supporting for the rest of this pandemic.”
But Dang, whose restaurant can only seat 32 customers under pandemic restrictions and who lost months of business this spring, said the province doesn’t understand that at this point every penny counts, when it comes to keeping her doors open.
“It’s a slow recovery for all, so I was expecting a bit more support from the government,” she said.
“They’re just being a bit insensitive in this case to small businesses.”