By Nicole Di Tomasso
TORONTO — On Monday, the Ontario government announced a return to a modified Step Two of its re-opening plan, which states that indoor dining at bars and restaurants will be prohibited starting today for at least three weeks.
Bars and restaurants are bracing for the impact as the industry continues to suffer from the longest closures and toughest restrictions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Frustrated by the lack of data and consultation, foodservice-and-hospitality industry leaders are expressing their distaste for the new measures. Others are more prepared to pivot their operations this time around despite their disappointment.
“Once again, Ontario makes a move that will irreparably harm our industry without any consultation. The foodservice industry continues to bear the brunt of the restrictions and pay the cost of fighting this pandemic, despite having done everything they have been asked,” reads a statement from Restaurants Canada. “The data that we have seen show that restaurants are NOT the problem, yet we continue to be singled out and have never been allowed to meet with the Chief Medical Officer or the Ministry of Health to discuss data and strategies for restaurants, but have been turned down at every turn.”
“People in Ontario have shown time and time again that they will partner and do whatever it takes to keep us all safe, and we’ll do so again, but it’s so much harder to get people to listen when leaders don’t have a real plan that people can buy into – a plan that is sensible based on science and data and that our leaders talk us through on a regular basis. But the premier disappeared for weeks, and a major part of leadership is showing up,” said Mohamad Fakih, CEO of Paramount Fine Foods in a statement on Twitter.
According to Dan Kelly, president, CEO and Chair of the Board of Governors of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), it’s “Absolutely terrible news for so many Ontario small business owners (gyms, restaurants, arts/recreation, personal services). Premier hints at more financial support – this must happen today. Two weeks to flatten the curve has turned into two years,” said Kelly in a tweet.
“While we are deeply concerned about the newly mandated restrictions with respect to this pandemic situation, the Liberty Entertainment Group (LEG) understands the urgency to protect our dedicated hospitality team, our valued guests and the community at this time and respect the recommendations of the advising medical experts,” says Nick Di Donato, president and CEO of LEG. “We will continue to pivot and adapt to maintain our businesses and properties in order to best meet the needs of our customers and as such, will operate our restaurants and Cibo Market for safe takeout and delivery, as regulations permit. At the same time, we are proud to have been honoured with the esteemed, international recognition of Best Italian Restaurant in the World by Top 50 Italy for our property, Don Alfonso 1890 at Casa Loma. Although we will temporarily close as required by current restrictions, we greatly anticipate the opportunity to welcome guests to celebrate this incredible accolade with us, for an unparalleled, Michelin-starred experience in-person in the near future.”
The industry will continue to fight for additional government assistance to stay in business and continue paying staff until the pandemic is over. Specifically, Restaurants Canada is calling on the provincial government to take the following actions: immediate infusion of grants to restaurants, deferral of HST payments, rebates for property taxes and utilities and re-imposition of commercial eviction ban, which expired on Dec. 31, 2021.
It’s critical that the government recognizes how the policy changes impact Ontario’s foodservice-and-hospitality industry and provide additional support to avoid permanent closures.