Study shows 80 per cent of restaurants still need subsidies to survive winter months
OTTAWA -- Throughout the pandemic, restaurants have benefitted from federal and provincial subsidies to keep their doors open, but those subsidies are coming to an end.
A Restaurants Canada survey shows many are not likely make it though the winter if the federal subsidy is cancelled at the end of this month.
“The most recent survey we’ve found that 80 per cent are just getting by, or losing money,” says James Rilett, Restaurants Canada VP for central Canada. “Debt loads because of higher prices of foods and energy prices. What we’re saying is we definitely need the support systems that the federal and provincial governments have put in to continue so that we can try and get though this period of unprofitability.”
John Borsten owns several restaurants in Ottawa. He’s calling for an immediate return to full capacity.
“I’m my opinion, as long as they are limiting our capacity, they have to keep subsidizing us,” says Borsten. “You’re forcing me to close. We’re paying our full rent for half the restaurant. I've been doing that for a year and a half. The government has helped, but could I have done that otherwise? No. If they hadn’t done that, there wouldn’t be anything left.”
The restaurant industry questions how sports stadiums and movie theatres can have full capacity, with food and drink options, but restaurants cannot. Infection control epidedemiologist Dr. Colin Furness agrees.
“A full stadium is a bad idea. A full restaurant, if rules are being followed, is not a bad idea,” says Furness. “When you’ve got a gigantic crowd—I think about the lineups in stadiums at bathrooms, the lineups at concession stands, the pushing and jostling to get in and out—I wouldn’t do that for any money because I’ve got an unvaccinated child at home.”
But the Ontario Ministry of Health says having 20,000 cheering fans in a sports arena isn’t as dangerous as a restaurant dining room saying, “They are higher risk settings - prolonged close contact in enclosed spaces where face coverings are removed for the entire duration when seated.”
Furness and Rilett disagree, saying no one is wearing masks in sports stadiums either.
“In stadiums they’re not wearing masks and, even if they were, it does not compensate for everything I talked about with respect to lineups at concession stands and bottlenecks at bathrooms and going in and out. So there is no justification for this.”
Rilett adds, “They get a couple drinks, they get some popcorn they get other food and things happen and they just start yelling and cheering and the mask never goes back on.”
The Ministry of Health says they will continue to monitor the data and evaluate when it may be safe to consider lifting limits in other settings.
Borsten says limiting fully vaccinated restaurants makes no sense.
“Everybody inside over the age of 12 is fully vaccinated, but yet we have to maintain capacity restrictions. Nobody can make sense of this.”
The federal government is now in talks with industry, there’s speculation subsidies may continue into late November.