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Canadian restaurants will need help to 'keep the lights on': association

Last Updated May 7, 2020 at 12:54 pm PDT

B.C. restaurants, pubs and cafes can begin to reopen on Tues. May 19. (Courtesy Restaurants Canada)

More than half of restaurants say they haven't been able to make their full rent for two months

Even opened at 50 per cent capacity, they are still not sure they can break even: association

The restaurants association is asking for more commercial tenant protection and rent relief

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — With restaurants in B.C. to re-open soon during the pandemic, the future remains uncertain for many across the country.

Mark von Schellwitz, with Restaurants Canada, is calling for more federal and provincial financial help so businesses can re-open and stay open.

He said restrictions, as outlined in the B.C. government’s four-phase re-start plan Wednesday, will prevent restaurants from turning the same profit as two months ago.

“That big concern is, ‘Will I be able to survive this, under this new model, and, ‘Will I be able to bring my staff back?'” said von Schellwitz.

“Unlike other businesses, where you can just open up and turn on the lights, in the food service business you’ve got perishable inventory. You are going to have to provide quite a bit of money in start-up costs just to reopen your business.”

He added that more than 50 per cent of association members said in a survey they haven’t been able to make their full rent for the last two months.

Meanwhile, 70 per cent of restaurants are worried they don’t have enough liquidity to pay vendors, rent or other expenses over the next three months.

“Even opened at 50 per cent capacity, they are still not sure they can break even under those circumstances,” said von Schellwitz.

“Yet the bills are still there. You’ve got to keep the lights on.”

He said restaurants need more commercial tenant protection and rent relief, as well as cash flow due to rising debt levels and low revenue.

The association is asking for federal and provincial assistance, including some kind of working capital grant.

B.C.’s re-start plan suggests continued efforts in the retail sector to reduce line-ups and putting Plexiglass barriers in place to reduce contact, as well as more online and delivery services and wearing non-medical masks in places of business. Restaurants are part of the second phase, allowing them to re-open in mid-May, with some restrictions.