Response to Ontario’s latest lockdown extension

Published May 13, 2021

With the latest extension of Ontario’s stay-at-home order to June 2, the majority of the province’s restaurant dining rooms will have been closed for a total of 362 days since the pandemic started.

This will mean an entire year lost for most of Ontario’s hard-hit foodservice businesses, placing many restaurant operators on the brink. Financial aid from the provincial government has not reflected the protracted nature of the mandated shutdowns. The Ontario Small Business Support Grant and other emergency aid programs were designed to help a limited number of businesses for a short time, but the need has become far greater and the hurt more widely felt.

The vast majority of foodservice 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.

According to the latest survey data from Restaurants Canada:

  • 86% of Ontario’s restaurants are still operating at a loss or barely scraping by, now more than a year into the pandemic.
  • 7 out of 10 restaurant operators continuing to lose money expect they’ll need at least a year to return to profitability.

Support programs need to better target restaurants, with expanded criteria and an increase in available funding. Restaurants Canada is continuing to call on the Ontario government to help the province’s foodservice businesses mitigate rising debt in the following ways:

  • Further funding through the Ontario Small Business Support Grant program and an amendment to the rules to ensure every foodservice establishment is able to receive funding.
  • A sector-specific program for covering reopening/closure costs such as wasted inventory, staffing costs, patio setup/takedown, etc.
  • An expansion of the property tax and energy cost rebate programs to include all foodservice businesses that have been impacted by Red-Control level restrictions.
  • An immediate end to the 6% markup that restaurants pay to buy alcohol from the LCBO.

Restaurants Canada also sent a letter to Premier Ford and his cabinet on May 11, renewing our request for patio dining to reopen as a way to support the province’s struggling foodservice sector and to provide Ontarians with a safe outlet to combat lockdown fatigue. We will continue to push for the reopening of patios as soon as possible, and for increased financial support in recognition of the province’s protracted lockdown.

Marlee Wasser

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