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Quebec businesses that opened during pandemic not eligible for provincial funding

Click to play video: 'Quebec businesses that don’t qualify for COVID-19 subsidies crying foul'
Quebec businesses that don’t qualify for COVID-19 subsidies crying foul
WATCH: Restaurant dining rooms are reopened for business but some owners are still struggling with staff shortages. What's more, Quebec businesses that opened their doors after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic claim they are missing out on much-needed subsidies. Global’s Olivia O'Malley has more. – Jan 31, 2022

In the province’s latest reopening plan, dining rooms across are allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity. It comes as some relief to restaurant owners who claim they are missing out on much-needed subsidies.

Brooke Walsh is counting on the success of 212 Montreal’s reopening.

“We’re now in debt more than we intended to be. It’s around $200,000 more and it’s only getting worse,” said the operating partner.

The supper club’s dining room was open just three weeks before it was forced to close in December 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Since then, the new business has not received one cent from the provincial government.

“That’s an awful, awful feeling when you dedicate your life to, you know, making people have a good time and then your government just kind of throws you to the side,” Walsh said.

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Quebec’s emergency assistance for small and medium-sized businesses does not apply to places in operation for less than six months. If assistance is granted, it will be in the form of a loan with a three per cent interest rate.

Read more: Quebec restaurant and bar owners mull reopening in defiance of COVID-19 health orders

Gia Vin and Grill, which opened Dec. 4, 2021, falls into that category.

“It’s difficult. It’s particularly difficult when more, like, creating jobs in the face of the pandemic,” said chef and owner Emma Cardarelli.

Cardarelli, who owns a total of three restaurants, wants the provincial government to treat the industry like the important part of the economy it is.

“We employ a lot of people. We inject a lot of tax money into our government and it’s tiring to not be treated like that,” said Cardarelli.

Instead, she says she feels like restaurants are “treated like a nuisance.”

Quebec’s economy minister argues the six-month period is necessary to show that a business is profitable.

“I don’t think would have been prudent for the government to just open up the purse, so to speak, not having an assessment of the profitability,” said Pierre Fitzgibbon.

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Read more: Quebec restaurants are reopening, but some former workers don’t plan to go back

Fitzgibbon claims the government has given $145 million in subsidies to restaurants and bars over the last two years.

For anyone wanting to enter the industry right now, he told Global News,I think they should probably wait a couple of months.”

Champs Bar was forced to close just three days after its grand opening in December 2021. Its owner Raphael Kerwin argues all businesses should be eligible for funding when the government mandates them to close.

“It’s about the fact that we have been forced to close down or we’re not allowed to make money. They should be compensating us for closing our doors, not whether we’ll be a viable business in six months to a year,” said Kerwin.

Walsh feels the same, telling the government, “If you’re going to shut us down, support us.”

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