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Many B.C. restaurants worried they don’t have the money to reopen: Restaurants Canada
VANCOUVER -- A national advocacy group for the restaurant industry is calling on the province to help B.C. restaurants reopen to diners and says many are concerned they don’t have the money to do so following months of little to no revenue.
On Wednesday, the B.C. government unveiled its reopening strategy, which indicated restaurants could welcome diners back as of mid-May, as long as appropriate distancing and other safeguards are in place.
But Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president of Restaurants Canada for Western Canada, said restaurants are facing significant start-up costs, including replacing perishable inventory, and they’re hearing from members who are worried they can’t afford to reopen.
“In our industry, it’s not a simple process to just open the doors and welcome in your guests again. There’s a lot of preparation that has to go in that, there’s that inventory you have to purchase, and there’s staff training, and in this particular case, it’s almost like opening up a brand new restaurant,” von Schellwitz said, and referenced the distancing measures that will have to employed. “A lot of them are in that critical decision-making time, of whether or not it makes sense for them to reopen, whether or not they can actually break even.”
As for the government aid that has been offered to date, von Schellwitz said while the industry is grateful for the help, there are still restaurants that aren’t benefitting. For example, he said not all landlords are on board with the federal rent relief program.
“I’ve heard lots of stories already of landlords providing that 10-day notice, pay in full or hand in your keys,” von Schellwitz said.
He added while some are taking advantage of the emergency business loans, it’s just adding more debt, which also includes tax deferrals, and eventually those will have to be repaid.
“They’re saying well, if it’s not going to kill us now, it’s going to kill us a few months from now, because under this operating environment, we’re not going to be able to generate enough income to pay those things back in any sort of reasonable time period,” he said.
Restaurants Canada wants to see the provincial government offer a working capital grant for restaurants, as well as introduce a moratorium on commercial lockouts. Federally, they’d like to see the timeframe for the 75 per cent wage a subsidy extended as well.
“If our restaurants aren’t reopening, I think the economic consequences of this will go on for quite some time,” von Schellwitz said.
In Vancouver, Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro has been offering takeout orders ever since their indoor dining space closed.
Manager Darnell Stager said the goal is to pay the rent and the payroll, and so far it’s been going OK.
“It’s been going alright. Definitely not ideal. We’re down to about five per cent of what we’d normally be selling,” Stager said.
He said their smaller restaurant doesn’t qualify for the 75 per cent wage subsidy, and losing tourism in the city is another hit. But despite the downturn, Stager said they’re not going to rush reopening.
“I think we’re going to take our time for reopening, because I don’t think it makes a lot of sense for us to hire three more people if the street traffic’s not going to be same,” Stager said.
Instead, he said they’re aiming for mid-June.
“We’re focussed on improving and coming back stronger than ever,” he said. “I think that people are ready and eager to be getting out to restaurants soon, but I think that we should be doing it with caution, and I don’t want to see a second wave of this pandemic hit us hard.”