Thousands of small Ontario businesses may not survive the restrictions the province is putting in place this week to slow the spread of COVID-19, a business executive said.
Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the restrictions that go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday are likely to have serious consequences. The federation, a non-profit organization, has 95,000 members across Canada.
“This is absolutely devastating news for small business owners,” Kelly told CBC News Monday.
“We’ve had almost two years of lockdowns and restrictions. Sadly, we’re backing down and not forward. Any small glimmer of hope on the horizon seems to be fading at this point,” Kelly said.
“It’s so depressing. Thousands of businesses just won’t survive this new round of lockdowns. A lot of them just won’t.”
Any restriction should be accompanied by immediate support in the form of subsidies, and if not, the measures will lead to financial ruin, he added.
The latest public health measures announced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Monday are forcing restaurants and bars to stop eating indoors and stop selling alcohol after 10 p.m. starting Wednesday .
Retail stores, including malls and personal care services, are to reduce capacity to 50%, while indoor concert halls, theaters, cinemas, museums, galleries and other attractions must close.
The measures will be in place at least until January 26, the Ontario government said in a press release Monday.
Ontario hints at small business grant program
In a tweet hours later, Kelly said the Ontario Ministry of Finance had contacted the federation to tell them that a small business grant program was coming, but the ministry has yet to confirm such. program and responded to a CBC News request for more details.
The Ontario Minister of Finance’s office has contacted us to tell us that a small business grant program is in the works. This would be a much needed relief for small businesses and cannot come soon enough.
The Ontario government, for its part, on Monday announced an expanded rebate program for businesses affected by the restrictions.
Some businesses ordered to close will be reimbursed 100% of property tax and energy costs, he said, while those that must reduce capacity to 50% will receive reimbursement for half of those expenses.
Business leaders say they are defeated
Business owners, meanwhile, say the latest restrictions are disappointing. The new measures mean that some companies will have to close their doors, while others will have to limit their capacity.
The owners said they were concerned the three-week shutdown could result in lost income and layoffs and exacerbate existing labor shortages and rising costs.
Steve Lachelt, owner of the Cardio-Go gym at its King Street West location, said he’s just getting ready for the busiest time of year for gyms.
“January is the right time. We have to be prepared and organized, and all of this preparation must have taken a total of 180,” he said.
“It’s a little demoralizing because here we are, back in the same confinement we were in last year. I think we all thought we were out of this.”
Lachelt said federal business support programs for rent and wage subsidies, not provincial programs, have allowed small businesses to keep their doors open in Ontario.
Carl Pratt, owner of the Beaches Brewing Company, has said he will have to shut down his business again.
“It’s not the kind of news you want to get,” he said. “I just feel defeated, I guess. It’s just wave after wave and lock after lock. It kind of undermines your motivation to keep going.”
Pratt said the brewery’s survival will depend on commercial support.
“A lot of these grants are announced after the fact, and you just sit on pins and needles for a few weeks, hoping that something comes to fruition. “
Owner says business can survive with limited capacity
Tex Thomas, owner of Pro League Sports, said a 50% capacity limit is an improvement in curbside shopping.
Thomas said he managed to spend the holidays with limited capacity, which he says is better than not having any customers in his store at all.
“It’s better than nothing,” Thomas said. “It means a lot that we can actually get customers through the front door, out of the cold and shopping. At least with customers able to come in to shop, I hope we can. to help.”