Restaurant group slams Ontario’s latest COVID restrictions on foodservice industry

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Ontario introduces multiple new restrictions to help contain Omicron spread'
COVID-19: Ontario introduces multiple new restrictions to help contain Omicron spread
WATCH ABOVE: Ontario introduces multiple new restrictions to help contain Omicron spread – Jan 3, 2022

Restaurants Canada has slammed the Ontario government’s latest COVID restrictions on the foodservice industry, saying people are seeing “their life’s work destroyed.”

The association, which advocates for the country’s foodservice industry, released a statement shortly after the province announced new measures, including a ban on indoor dining, in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

“Once again, Ontario makes a move that will irreparably harm our industry without any consultation,” Restaurants Canada said in a statement.

“The foodservice industry continues to bear the brunt of the restrictions and pay the cost of fighting this pandemic, despite having done everything they have been asked.”

Read more: Ontario moves schools to online learning, bans indoor dining and issues new COVID capacity restrictions

Starting Wednesday at 12:01 a.m. and lasting until at least Jan. 26, indoor dining is prohibited in Ontario. Takeout, drive-thru and delivery is permitted, as is outdoor dining with restrictions.

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The sale of alcohol is restricted after 10 p.m., as is the consumption of alcohol at businesses after 11 p.m., with delivery and takeout exempted.

Indoor meeting and event spaces are closed “with limited exceptions” but outdoor spaces are allowed to remain open with restrictions.

“The data that we have seen show that restaurants are NOT the problem, yet we continue to be singled out and have never been allowed to meet with the chief medical officer or the Ministry of Health to discuss data and strategies for restaurants, but have been turned down at every turn,” Restaurants Canada’s statement said.

Click to play video: 'Ontario could see ‘hundreds of thousands’ of COVID-19 cases per day, Ford says'
Ontario could see ‘hundreds of thousands’ of COVID-19 cases per day, Ford says

Government officials said the latest restrictions are being imposed in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron variant and an impact on the hospital sector. While the Omicron variant appears to be less severe, its increased transmissibility means the hospital sector may become overwhelmed, officials said.

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“The evidence tells us that about one per cent of people who get Omicron will end up in the hospital,” Premier Doug Ford said.

“Our public health experts tell us we could see hundreds of thousands of cases every single day. One per cent of hundreds of thousands is too many new patients for our hospitals to handle.”

Ford said many indoor spaces are being shuttered because the risk of transmission in those settings is greater.

“These [measures] will be targeted and they will be time limited. The immediate goal of these measures will be to blunt the latest wave so we can ease the pressure on our hospitals and allow more time to deliver these all-important booster shots, which continue at a tremendous pace because vaccines remain the key to our long-term success against this virus,” Ford said.

But Restaurants Canada said Monday’s announcement will cause irreparable harm to the foodservice industry and called for increased government supports.

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“Today’s decision hurts real people who are seeing their life’s work destroyed,” the association’s statement said.

“We need support now. Broken hearts don’t pay the bills.”

Restaurants Canada called for an “immediate infusion” of grants, deferral of HST payments, the immediate opening of a portal to allow for property tax and utility rebates to be processed quickly, and the reimposition of a commercial eviction ban.

Read more: Ontario reports 13,578 new COVID cases, more people in hospital and ICUs

The government did announce some supports for businesses impacted by the latest restrictions, including an expansion of the Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program.

Eligible businesses required to close indoor activities, such as restaurants, will receive a full rebate for property tax and energy costs that they encounter while the restrictions are in place.

Eligible businesses limited to 50 per cent capacity will be able to receive a rebate payment equivalent to 50 per cent.

The government said they are also providing up to $7.5 billion for a six-month interest and penalty-free period for businesses to make payments for provincially administered taxes.

Read more: Ontario hospitals facing staffing challenges as COVID cases continue to mount

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The government said they are also exploring options to provide grants to impacted businesses and workers.

“The government will also continue to call on the federal government to come to table and help us support Ontario businesses and Ontario workers by allowing eligible businesses to defer HST and to enhance supports available to workers affected by current public health measures,” officials said.

Supports are also in place from the federal government.

The Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association also released a statement following Monday’s announcement.

Tony Elenis, president of the association, said the restrictions being imposed now will have a “more severe” impact than previous measures because the hospitality industry has already been under financial pressures for 22 months.

“We welcome the recently announced relief offered by both provincial and federal governments, but they need to step it up now more than ever and support all fixed costs in an industry that is just barely hanging on,” Elenis said.

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