Save the Hospitality/Event Industry: Grant Capacity Restrictions

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On February 8th, 2021, the Government of Ontario announced the beginning of the reopening of Ontario in accordance with Ontario’s colour-coded COVID-19 Framework. Part of the reopening of the current red zone - framework currently bans wedding receptions, funeral receptions, retirement celebrations, networking functions, conferences, wedding shows and along side many other social events. Under the Red – Control framework the Province of Ontario currently allows retail stores to operate with a 75% capacity limit and non-essential retail stores to operate with a 50% capacity limit.  However, restaurants and meeting/event spaces in Ontario are unfairly restricted to 10 patrons indoors and 25 outdoors regardless of available space and capacity to safely serve patrons.

After a careful review of the reopening plan, the Hospitality and Live Event Industries would like to make the following requests;

-          That restaurants and meeting/event spaces be allowed to determine the maximum number of patrons and staff that their premises can safely accommodate complying with the standard two metre distancing requirement and be allowed to operate above 50% capacity if they can abide by physical distancing requirements based on square footage. The event industry should be granted special consideration in that it has event spaces which allow for separate entrances, individual kitchens, 4 people seating per table, separate bathrooms, and adequate staff to monitor that all health and safety protocols are being followed including no mingling, masks being worn when getting up from their table and many others.

-          Provide additional grant funding for companies that are still more than 70% impacted from January 2021 to September 2021

-          Provide rapid testing tools to allow the live event industry to reopen as soon as possible and on a scale that can be profitable by Spring/Summer 2021

Our Government suggests it is providing over $1billion dollars to support small businesses. This is not enough to support our industry because as we are still not operational and therefore do not generate any revenue. The longer we remain closed, the greater our debt load becomes, and the greater our risk of permanently losing all our employees and/or our businesses. As it stands now, our profits will go to paying off government implemented debt instead of towards employee wage increases and investments into our businesses to allow for growth (which is money back into our economy). The Ontario Government is putting the livelihoods of our employees and us as business owners at risk. The funding model the Ontario Government is utilizing does not account for the slow return to business. With most of 2021 events currently being postponed to 2022, we have little opportunity to salvage this year and generate even a modest revenue.

We conclude that Ontario’s reopening framework is inadequate as it unjustifiably excludes too many small businesses within the Hospitality Industry. A prejudice against the Hospitality sector is clearly demonstrated by the government’s lack of support for this industry to date. Moreover, small businesses in these industries are bleeding money every day and are provided no guidance from our government in terms of our reopening timelines. In our view, merely continuing the status quo is unacceptable as it virtually guarantees the death of a majority number of businesses within the industry. Accordingly, we recommend that the Ontario Government should immediately re-consider and substantially revise its proposed reopening plan, specifically as it pertains to the hospitality industry.