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New Survey Suggests 800,000 Canadian Restaurant Workers Are Now Out Of Work

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A national restaurant group is suggesting that closures could permanently wipe out over a quarter of restaurants

A closed restaurant in New York City
Gary He/Eater NY

A new survey suggests that restaurant and bar closures have put about 800,000 Canadians out of a job, at least temporarily.

Restaurants Canada, a national association that represents the industry, surveyed hundreds of restaurant owners representing thousands of restaurants, and came up with the numbers.

The Gazette broke the numbers down for Quebec, calculating that over 175,000 restaurant and hospitality sector workers are unemployed in the province right now. All up, with around 1.2 million Canadians working in the sector, that means about two-thirds of the industry is out of work.

On top of that, the survey suggests that 10 percent of restaurants across the country have already closed permanently due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on public life. Restaurants Canada estimates that unless additional measures are enacted to help restaurants and bars, another 18 percent could close by the end of April — meaning over a quarter of the industry could be wiped out.

Of course, these numbers should not be taken as perfectly precise — Restaurants Canada surveyed a fraction of restaurant owners, and their numbers suggest that many of those people surveyed own numerous restaurants (for example, somebody who owns multiple franchise locations of one chain, like Tim Hortons). It’s also unclear whether some regions are over- or under-represented in the survey — for example, few Montreal restaurants have declared that they are already permanently closed, so the 10 percent number seems high in that context.

But even factoring in other elements, it’s a bleak picture — Restaurants Canada notes that allowing restaurants to stay open for take-out and delivery service is not a solution, pointing out that over half of restaurants in the country have closed temporarily without offering take-out. Plus, the survey suggests that nearly half of restaurants that have remained open are operating on reduced hours.

Restaurants Canada is also proposing extra measures that could help restaurants stay afloat or bounce back when they’re allowed to open. The big one is some kind of rent relief: in much of Canada (Quebec included), businesses like restaurants have been at the mercy of their landlords in terms of having to pay rent. The organization suggests that government-mandated rent deferrals (or possibly even cancellations), and moratoriums on evictions for commercial properties would go a long way towards helping restaurants survive.

The organization also argues that many restaurants need clear access to funds to stave off bankruptcy. This has already proved to be a sore point: last week, it was revealed that bars would automatically be excluded from any loans from the publicly-owned Business Development Bank of Canada, a key source of possible funding for small businesses.