First, let me start by saying we feel for everyone during this truly trying time. It is taking a toll on the personal lives of many, and our sympathies go out to all that have been affected.
Although we typically stay far away from the realm of politics and social policy, we feel compelled to address some concerns that will undoubtedly affect our business and many of our industry colleagues.
We understand that there is no road map for what is happening right now and many small to medium sized businesses have been faced with a wide variety of challenges and decisions on how to handle what is being thrown their way.
When it comes to the restaurant industry, some have decided to provide take out, some have made changes to their model in an attempt to keep core employees on the payroll, while others have made the difficult decision of closing altogether. Although we have decided to be close entirely, we strongly support those who have found a way to make things work in these desperate times.
I would like to commend everyone in their efforts to help keep people safe while trying to remain resilient.
Over the past two weeks, the government has attempted to provide various solutions to many of the obstacles this situation has created. They have spoken a great deal about providing Canadians with the support necessary to get them through this crisis, and I applaud them in these efforts.
The government has also put forward quite a few programs that are aimed at helping small business. At face value, these may seem to solve some of the problems that are being thrust upon our business community, but when you take a closer look, it provides little to no help for small to medium sized restaurants.
To paint the picture effectively, I will give you the situation we are facing at our Bank Street location:
On March 1, we paid rent. On March 15, we closed our doors, and they have remained closed since.
Although The Senate on Bank Street was open until March 15, business was down close to 40% in those first two weeks of March, as customers began to feel uncomfortable with the emerging health crisis. From March 15 onward, we have had no revenue.
We paid our employees up to their final day, and then were forced to lay off our entire staff to allow them to apply for employment insurance (at the guidance of government). Therefore, in March we have incurred expenses of 50% payroll and 100% rent in a month where we saw little to no revenue.
Let me stress that this is not only about our business. I’m using The Senate’s experience as an example to provide insight as to what the restaurant industry is going through as a whole. Many of the restaurants we all love and include in our daily, weekly or monthly routines are in the exact same situation—without a clear plan, they will not have the means to make it through this crisis.
We are now seeing many restaurants partially opening to offer take out, pick up or delivery. These are establishments that do not have the resources to offer these services, but are doing so simply because they are fearful of the unknown.
If we cannot protect the restaurants that employ the people in our community, then our loved ones, friends and neighbours will not have a job to return to once this is all over.
We are now facing another rent payment tomorrow which will put further burden on our financial situation. I know many other institutions are in the same position. The government has decided to let individual landlords and tenants work out payments on their own, and with varying opinions on what should be done a great deal of animosity will fester between both parties. Is it right for a landlord to expect rent from a property that is no longer legally able to operate under the terms it was originally leased? Is it reasonable for the landlord to not receive rent, forcing them to be unable fulfill their own obligations and incur unwanted financial stress? I would say it is not.
Although it is NOT being offered, is it reasonable for the government to ask a small business to take out a 100k loan to pay rent and utilities for 3 months while not being able to operate? It would take a restaurant with a yearly revenue of $1,000,000.00 a full year to repay that debt before it would be in the black and that’s if everything returns to normal immediately.
I implore the government to address this situation head on and to do what is right for all small businesses—and in turn, all Canadians.
If all commercial mortgages were to be suspended interest free until the government feels business can open again, landlords could then pass this benefit on to their tenants.
Mortgage Deferral – Rent Deferral – Zero Interest
There needs to be a clear conversation about this issue and it needs to happen now. It is the single most important conversation surrounding small businesses today.
If you would like to help restaurants and other small businesses get the support they need, please share this message with others, and contact your local councillors and MP.
There is also a very worthwhile movement started by restauranteurs that is gaining a lot of momentum. It speaks to the challenges we are currently facing and provides solutions that could help lessen damages to the hospitality industry.
Head to www.savehospitality.ca For more information on the movement and how you can help!
Stay safe everyone, and we look forward to serving you once this is all over!
The Senate Tavern
The Senate Tavern on Clarence
33 Clarence Street, Ottawa
ON, K1N 5M4
The Senate Tavern on Bank
1159 Bank Street, Ottawa
ON, K1S 3X7