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Restaurants Canada warns half of all eateries could close as a result of COVID-19

Last Updated Dec 16, 2020 at 12:37 pm PDT

FILE: Chairs are turned upside down on the bar at a closed restaurant, amid COVID-19 in Vancouver, on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Nearly half of Canada’s restaurants expect to close permanently if current conditions don’t improve, according to industry group Restaurants Canada.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cut deeply into the earnings of the restaurant sector at large, and the group says no other industry has been hit quite as hard.

“The holiday season is usually one of the busiest times of the year for restaurants,” says Todd Barclay, president and CEO of Restaurants Canada. “This year, with so many under lockdown, it will be devastating.”

The group is rolling out a new campaign front-ended by a TV-ready public service announcement, tying the happy memories many people attach to restaurants with the fate of those establishments.

Entitled “Picture life without restaurants”, the PSA implores people to support their local eateries in any way they can, be it take-out or delivery orders, gift cards, or in-person dining if it’s allowed.

Restaurants Canada notes that since COVID-19 restrictions started taking effect in March, some 10,000 restaurants have shut their doors nation-wide.

‘A completely different landscape’

That comes as no surprise to Matthew Senecal-Junkeer, who owns Hunnybee Bruncheonette and The Birds & The Beets near Vancouver’s downtown core.

“We went from being a very full, very busy, very vibrant restaurant in a very full, vibrant neighbourhood full of offices and tourists… to a completely different landscape,” he says.

“We’ve served probably about 20 per cent of the customers that we did in the same time a year ago. It’s in many ways an unrecognizable new normal.”

Senecal-Junkeer says while his establishments do offer take-out, government subsidies are mostly what’s keeping them afloat thus far.

He adds that while 2020 is hardly a typical year, slower-than-normal business in the typically busy fall months has many restaurant owners fearing what lies ahead for the usually slow post-holiday period.

And even though Senecal-Junkeer doesn’t think this new campaign will completely fill in the earnings gap, “I think it could help enough to make a difference for many restaurants.”