Richmond’s restaurants will need support to survive indoor dining closures

By Jeff Morris

Manotick Messenger

Today’s announcement that restaurants in Ottawa will be closed for the next 28 days for dining in is a tough one to swallow for Richmond’s restaurants.

The measures were seen as necessary with this week’s spike in COVID-19 cases in the province, particularly in Ottawa, Toronto and Peel Region. Experts are estimating that Ontario will see about 1,000 new cases per day over the next two weeks.

One of the best things about living in Richmond is the local restaurant scene. When the pandemic started, our family was one of many in the area that went out of our way to order take-out or delivery to help local restaurants survive the initial shut down. Among the local eateries we have ordered from include Richmond Gourmet Restaurant, Danby’s, Blue Diamond, Chinhon and Milano’s. We plan on continuing to order take out twice a week for the next month as our local restaurants take a hit moving back into stage 2. If you have not been taking advantage of the great restaurants in the village, now is a great time to try them out for take out or delivery.

Gyms, movie theatres and casinos are also shutting down for 28 days. As an industry, the restaurants may become the hardest hit.

Restaurants Canada anticipates that closing indoor dining in Ontario’s COVID-19 hot spots will result in tens of thousands of lost jobs that will require government help to recover.

“Our sector was one of the first to suffer the impacts of this crisis and continues to be among the hardest hit,” said Restaurants Canada President and CEO Todd Barclay. “Going back to this level of shutdown will be a huge blow. Restaurants deserve to see the data driving this decision and will need immediate emergency assistance so they can continue contributing to the social and economic fabric of the communities they serve.”

Restaurants Canada estimates that the indoor dining closures coming into effect at midnight tonight will result in sales losses of as much as 80 per cent for full-service restaurants and more than 40 per cent for quick-service restaurants. Tens of thousands of jobs will be lost across the province, including 12,000 in Ottawa

“Ontario’s restaurants have made major investments in health and safety equipment and training so that they could continue serving their communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said James Rilett, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Central Canada. “They are now being asked to severely restrict their operations to help the province contain rising community spread. Doing so will come at a steep economic cost for communities impacted by these restrictions if all levels of government don’t step up with emergency assistance to help them pull through.”

Restaurants Canada is calling for the following immediate support measures from all levels of government: 

Federal Level

  • Expansion of the newly unveiled rent assistance program to ensure businesses are supported for as long as they are mandated to operate under severely limiting restrictions due to COVID-19.
  • An amendment to allow management positions to qualify for funding under the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program.
  • A mechanism to force insurance companies to honour business interruption claims and pressure to rein in skyrocketing rates.

Provincial Level

  • An emergency assistance program similar to the Quebec compensation system for restaurants forced to close in targeted areas.
  • A concerted effort to work with the federal government and Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario to restrain unmanageable insurance rates and ensure business interruption claims are honoured.
  • Stronger enforcement of penalties for flagrant COVID-19 restriction rule breakers by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

Municipal Level

  • Access to data on effectiveness of COVID-19 containment efforts among foodservice sector so the industry can address areas for improvement.
  • A “seal of approval” inspection program to clearly differentiate violators from responsible restaurant operators and improve consumer confidence.
  • Consultation with industry to streamline contact tracing with existing or developing technology.

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