4,800 B.C. restaurants could permanently close because of pandemic
VANCOUVER -- Hundreds of thousands of restaurant employees are out of work, and they may not have jobs to come back to when the COVID-19 crisis is over, because many restaurants are failing.
On April 2, Restaurants Canada said nearly one out of ten restaurants across the country had already permanently closed. The organization has told CTV News it expects a new survey next week will reveal one third of B.C.’s 14,500 restaurants won’t make it without some kind of intervention. That’s about 4,800 restaurants in B.C. alone.
“If we don’t have jobs for these employees to come back to, we’re going to have a systemic unemployment problem here in B.C,” said Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada’s vice-president of Western Canada.
A beloved nerd’s haven on Vancouver’s east side is one of the establishments that won’t make it. Storm Crow Tavern has now permanently closed its doors.
“(We’re) heartbroken, it’s awful,” said Jessica Langer, Storm Crow’s marketing officer.
Langer said about 40 to 50 people were employed by the tavern, which was marketed to self-described nerds, geeks and misfits.
Storm Crow Tavern opened on gritty Commercial Drive in 2012 and branded itself with geek and sci-fi memorabilia, all in the name of good fun.
“It’s a place where people like us nerds can go and know that we’re home. It’s sad to lose a home like that,” Langer added.
The company’s other two locations, Storm Crow Alehouse in Kitsilano and Storm Crow Manor in Toronto are hoping to survive on takeout.
Wednesday marked the first National Takeout Day to support those restaurants still trying to make a buck.
“1.2 million Canadians were directly employed by the restaurant industry. In recent weeks, over 800,000 of them have lost their jobs,” said Pay Chen, spokesperson for Canada Takeout.
“It’s too late for us. It’s too late for the tavern, but please, please, please, please support your local restaurants,” pleaded Langer.
While takeout can help keep a restaurant’s doors open, it’s not enough.
Restaurants Canada says owners operate on a small profit margin at the best of times – only 4.7 per cent.
“The biggest issue, talking to members, is a rent abatement program. We’ve had a number of proposals,” explained von Schellwitz.
One idea is to tie rent abatement to revenue by abating the rent by the same percentage as the amount of lost revenue. A third would be covered by the tenant by adding it on to the back end of the lease, a third covered by financial institutions and a third by government. Restaurants Canada says there have been encouraging signs from the prime minister that they’re working on something with the provinces.
Storm Crow Tavern’s lease for its Commercial Drive location was about to expire. Because of the small space, it made sense to close as even when restrictions ease up, the tight quarters would make it difficult to practice physical distancing.
“It sucks,” said Langer.