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New COVID-19 measures could spell the end of thousands of Ontario businesses, CFIB warns

New COVID-19 measures could spell the end of thousands of Ontario businesses, CFIB warns-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
A view of the inside of the Beaches Brewing Company. Businesses in Ontario will face new restrictions as of Wednesday as the province tries to curb the spread of COVID-19. (CBC)

Thousands of small Ontario businesses may not survive restrictions that the province is rolling out this week to slow the spread of COVID-19, a business leader says.

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the restrictions that take effect on Wednesday at 12:01 a.m. will likely 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 on Monday.

“We’ve had nearly two years of lockdowns and restrictions. Sadly, we are going backwards and not forwards. Any little glimpse of hope that was out there on the horizon seems to be snuffed out at this stage,” Kelly said.

“It’s oh so depressing. Thousands of businesses are just not going to survive this additional round of lockdowns. Many of them are just not going to make it.”

Any restrictions should come with immediate support in the form of grant funding, and if not, the measures will lead to financial ruin, he added.

Dan Kelly-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says: ‘Thousands of businesses are just not going to survive this additional round of lockdowns. Many of them are just not going to make it.’ (CFIB)

The latest public health measures announced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Monday require restaurants and bars to halt indoor dining and cease selling alcohol after 10 p.m. starting on Wednesday.

Retail settings, including shopping malls and personal care services, must reduce their capacity to 50 per cent, while indoor concert venues, theatres, cinemas, museums, galleries and other attractions are required to close.

The measures will be in place until at least Jan. 26, the Ontario government said in a news release on Monday.

Ontario hints at small business grant program

In a tweet hours later, Kelly said Ontario’s Ministry of Finance has contacted the federation to say a small business grant program is coming.

In a statement, a ministry spokesperson said: “we are actively exploring options for further financial supports for businesses, including looking at options for grants for those businesses impacted by yesterday’s announcement.”

The Ontario government has already announced an expanded rebate program for businesses affected by the restrictions.

Certain businesses ordered to close will be reimbursed for 100 per cent of property tax and energy costs, it said, while ones required to reduce capacity to 50 per cent will receive a rebate payment for half those expenses.

Business owners say they feel defeated

Business owners, meanwhile, say the latest restrictions are disappointing. The new measures mean some businesses will have to close their doors, while others will have to limit capacity.

The owners said they fear the three weeks of closures will result in lost income and layoffs and exacerbate existing labour shortages and mounting costs.

Steve Lachelt, owner of Cardio-Go gym at its King Street West location, said he was just gearing up for the busiest time of year for gyms.

“January is the time, right. We have to be prepared and organized, and all of that preparation has had to take a complete 180,” he said.

“It’s a little bit demoralizing, because here we are, back in the same lockdown that we were last year. I think we all thought that we were out of this.”

Lachelt said federal business support programs for rent and wage subsidies, not provincial ones, have enabled small businesses to keep their doors open in Ontario.

Gym-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
Steve Lachelt, owner of Cardio-Go gym at its King Street West location, watches a couple of patrons lift weights. (CBC)

Carl Pratt, owner of the Beaches Brewing Company, said he will have to close his company once again.

“It’s not the kind of news you want to get,” he said. “Just feeling defeated, I guess. It’s just wave after wave and lockdown after lockdown. It kind of zaps your motivation to keep going.”

Pratt said survival of the brewpub will depend on business supports.

“A lot of these subsidies get announced after the fact, and you sit on pins and needles for a couple of weeks, hoping that something comes through.”

Owner says business may survive with limited capacity

Tex Thomas, owner of Pro League Sports, said a capacity limit of 50 per cent is an improvement on curbside shopping.

Thomas said he managed to get through the holidays with limited capacity, which he said is better than not having customers in his shop at all.

“It is better than nothing,” Thomas said. “It means a lot that we can actually have customers walk through the front door, come out from the cold and actually do some shopping. At least with customers able to come in to do some shopping, hopefully that can get us through.”

CBC

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