A new coalition of Montreal restaurant and bar owners has released a petition demanding to be reimbursed for all provincial sales tax payments made since April 1, when establishments across the country were shut down to curb the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
The petition began circulating on Thursday, after Quebec premier François Legault announced plans to cover 80 percent of fixed expenses (up to a maximum of $15,000 ) for restaurant and bar owners forced to scale back operations, or suspend them entirely, for a second time since the start of the pandemic, starting October 1. The aid will be dispensed in the form of a forgivable loan, but the coalition says that just isn’t enough.
“We spent millions of dollars to renovate our restaurants, to create the safest spaces we possibly could, to do our part to combat the pandemic and restart the economy. We have reacted more responsibly than most industries and yet had to deal with a barrage of political messaging dissuading the public from visiting us in the short three months we were allowed to operate this summer,” the statement reads.
The group says owners will continue to pay the federal GST sales tax but will send the money directly to the Canada Revenue Agency to ensure that the provincial government can not access the funds.
“Every penny of assistance we’ve got since day one — what has kept us in business since March — has been federal financing. Provincially, we’ve been ignored over and over and over again. Closing this time was a provincial government decision, not a federal one,” Toby Lyle, owner of the Burgundy Lion group, and the founder of the new coalition, tells Eater.
While tackling PST taxes is the first order of business for the restaurant and bar owners, Lyle says, they don’t plan to end there. “Legault’s subvention is a short-term solution, but we are looking for a way to sustain ourselves and stay open in the long term. Moving forward, we will discuss more steps, but we definitely want to figure something out for the 100,000 employees who were put out of work, which Legault didn’t address at all.”
Lyle says the idea of forming a coalition started off as a series of angry text messages shared among Montreal restaurant and bar owners in response to the announcement of the October closures, but has since amassed 27 signatures, representing close to 60 establishment across the city. Among them are Kevin Demers (Cold Room, El Pequeno Bar, Parliament Pub & Parlour), Ariel Goldstein (Philemon Bar and Tiers Paysage), David McMillan (the Joe Beef Group), and Christophe Beaudoin Vallières (Foiegwa, Atwater Cocktail Club, Fugazzi, and Milky Way).
“I feel the reason the restaurant industry is being treated so poorly by the government throughout the pandemic is that we don’t really have a solid foot to stand on. We don’t have strong enough lobby groups, and we don’t stick up for ourselves enough,” Lyle says. “We scream and yell on social media, but that’s about all we will do. My main focus right now is to get more and more people on board.”