Restaurants and bars forced to either partially or entirely cease operations for 28 days in Quebec as a result of the province’s “red” COVID-19 alert are now eligible for emergency financial assistance. Under the new scheme, restaurants and bars are entitled to having 80 percent of their fixed expenses — up to a maximum of $15,000 — offset for the month of October.
The program was announced by the minister of economy and innovations Pierre Fitzgibbon yesterday, October 1, alongside premier Francois Legault and public health director Horacio Arruda, and is expected to amount to approximately $100 million dollars in spending for the provincial government.
“Since the start of the pandemic, Quebec has been the province that has given the most help to businesses. We are at about double the average of the rest of Canada, and we will continue to be,” premier Legault said.
Fixed expenses covered by the program include commercial rent, municipal and school taxes, mortgage interest, electricity, licences and more. Roughly 12,000 restaurants and bars qualify, including those which remain semi-operational with takeout and delivery setups. The aid will be dispensed in the form of a forgivable loan, meaning it need not be repaid by the recipient.
“We are here for you, and I hope the measures I am announcing today will help you overcome these difficult times,” Fitzgibbon said during the press conference.
Montreal’s restaurant and bar owners had been anxiously awaiting news on government aid since Monday’s announcement that their establishments would be brought to a standstill. Many took to social media to express frustration at what some are deeming an unfair measure taken by the Quebec government, especially after the thousands of dollars invested by those in the industry to abide by health and safety protocols.
“Since March, our industry has been dying, but it has been trying to survive. There are few other public places today as safe as restaurants and bars, and yet it will be the hospitality industry that will have to pay the price,” Max Coubès, co-owner of bar Le 4e Mur and co-author of L’Apéro au Québec, wrote in a Facebook post.
The need for government intervention was put into even starker relief by the fact that October 1, the first day of the lockdown, was also when rent was due for thousands of restaurant and bar owners across the province.
The province’s largest restaurant association, the ARQ, had called on the government to compensate restaurants for losses by introducing a series of measures, including suspending the payment of commercial rent, prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants, and deferring sales taxes due on September 30.
Following yesterday’s announcement, the association filed a press release stating, “Even if the plan to support businesses announced this afternoon by the minister of economy and innovations Pierre Fitzgibbon isn’t perfect, the Association Restauration Québec believes it will nonetheless give a boost to the majority of restaurants located in the red zone, which as of today had to close their dining rooms.”
Should the lockdown continue longer than planned, Fitzgibbon assured that the assistance would be provided anew on a monthly basis.
- Up to $100M for Quebec businesses forced to close because of red zone rules [CBC]
- Quebec offers financial help to restaurants, bars ordered to close under coronavirus lockdown [Global News]
- Montreal’s Restaurants and Bars Will Close for 28 Days, Starting October 1 [EMTL]
- Brownstein: Restaurateurs try to remain positive despite daunting odds [Montreal Gazette]