Omicron restrictions will be ‘death sentence’ for Ontario businesses unless backers are introduced, industry groups warn

Drastic new measures to limit trade capacity amid Omicron’s rapid spread will have “devastating” consequences for retailers and restaurants looking to recoup their losses after 21 months of intermittent lockdowns, industry groups have warned.

With most government support programs coming to an end in recent months, lobby groups and small businesses are calling on the province and the federal government to reintroduce financial assistance as quickly as possible to offset declining revenues and prevent Ontario businesses from going bankrupt.

“There should be no new restrictions without new supports and compensations,” said Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce on Friday afternoon.

“While we know that Omicron’s rapid rise was unexpected as we all anxiously awaited Ontario’s reopening, we call on the Ontario government to reduce uncertainty in the business community and develop a long-term plan outlining how the province intends to support those impacted by the new public health measures.

Starting Sunday, Ontario will reduce capacity by 50% at bars, restaurants, hair and nail salons, grocery stores, drugstores, malls and gyms.

Restaurants and bars will be allowed to seat a maximum of 10 people per table, while closing no later than 11 p.m., putting the brakes on many New Years Eve plans seen as a way to generate income after months restrictions.

Any catering service during sporting events, concerts, plays and cinemas will be prohibited.

“It’s brutal,” said Ryan Mallough, Ontario regional director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “The sad reality is that this will be the end for many small businesses. “

A recent CFIB survey showed that only 36 percent of small businesses have returned to normal sales. Of those falling behind, 22% say they would survive less than six months with current income losses.

For catering, one of the sectors most affected by COVID-19, the news has been overwhelming, especially since there have been no announcements of additional financial assistance.

“It will be a death sentence for some businesses,” said Aaron Barberian, owner of Barberian’s Steakhouse. “This industry needs government help now. Not Monday. Not in the middle of next week. Today. It’s like a hurricane, an earthquake, or a flood. Treat it that way.

Barberian, who said he was proud of the provincial government for taking what he called a “necessary” step to bring Omicron under control, urged the federal government to immediately restore all of the wage and rental subsidies seen in previous waves. .

He also said the federal government should allow businesses to keep the HST they collected in November.

“I have $ 100,000 in my account which I know I will have to pay at the end of December. Some places are going to have to choose whether to pay the federal government or their employees, ”Barberian said.

Bars and restaurants hoping for a successful holiday season see those hopes vanish, said James Rilett, Canada Center vice-president for Restaurants Canada.

“Whenever there are new restrictions, there are people who throw in the towel, either because their bankers tell them they have to do it or for their own sanity,” Rilett said.

Provincially, targeted supports for small businesses ended months ago, while federal government loans have been cut dramatically. Neither the province nor the federal government have indicated they will introduce new supports for businesses, although the Ontario Chamber of Commerce says it is pushing for targeted relief that includes loan cancellations and extensions of payment terms, especially for small businesses.

On Thursday, the federal government passed Bill C-2, officially ending access to wages and rent for about 80 percent of small business owners.

For seasoned barber George Iliadis, who ran the Broadview beauty salon in Toronto for 57 years, the news sparked a grim sense of resignation.

“What can I do? It’s not good, but it hasn’t been busy for me lately. I think maybe a lot of people have stopped going out or going to the office, so they didn’t need to have their hair cut, ”he said.

Ontario reported 3,124 new COVID-19 infections on Friday, the highest number since May. Epidemiologists have predicted that the number of hospitalizations will skyrocket in the coming weeks.

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