TORONTO — In an effort to stabilize the restaurant industry, local restaurant owners, the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA) and the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas (OCOBIA) — representing 19 local BIAs and approximately 1,000 restaurants — have collaborated to request government relief for restaurants through reducing or eliminating HST collection and remittance until restaurants return to full dining.
The Canadian restaurant industry, previously valued at $93 billion, is believed to have lost more than $50 billion in sales since the beginning of COVID-19. A release issued by the group states that government relief through reducing or pardoning HST would help stabilize restaurants by increasing their margins enough for them to navigate through to the end of the pandemic. It is proposed that restaurants could use the HST collected against mounding debt.
“Though we put on a brave face, most of us are masking mountains of debts and hanging on by a thread,” says Harriet Clunie, executive chef of Das Lokal in Ottawa’s Byward Market. “We’re running out of steam, we’re running out of ideas and we’re running out of money.”
Operating though the pandemic has eaten into the restaurant industry’s already small profit margins. The group reports that investments in PPE and incurring additional third-party-delivery fees has resulted in operating losses and mounting debt. Restaurants are reported to have invested $750 million in PPE by December 2020 while facing continued closures and minimized capacity.
“This industry is vital to our main streets, not to mention it supports so many other sectors from agriculture and advertising, to trades and design. Restaurants are an integral part of our tourism sector and they are also vital employers of youth and newcomers,” says Nathalie Carrier, executive director, Vanier BIA.