Montreal independent restaurants struggling to stay afloat amid COVID-19 restrictions

Grumman ‘78 is open for business, but the COVID-19 pandemic has presented its own set of challenges.

“First we had to let go of 40 people,” Grumman ’78 co-owner Gaelle Cerf told CTV News. “It was heartbreaking, very difficult.”

Cerf now spends her time logging takeout orders. Luckily for her, Grumman ‘78 has a large enough space and can function with a skeleton staff. 

But for now, reopening her dining room isn’t an option. She says most restaurants will still struggle with cash flow once they do. 

“If you cannot get 100 per cent capacity of clients, there’s no way restaurants are going to be able to make it,” said Cerf. 

While many of the city’s restaurants have turned to takeout, not everyone can offer the service. 

Dinette Triple Crown in Little Italy used to make most of its sales through takeout. Clients would often eat their southern comfort food in a nearby park.

Dinette Triple Crown Little Italy owner Nicole Turcotte says employees didn’t feel safe enough to keep working, and she doesn’t feel ready to reopen. 

“We were very fortunate we worked hard and smart for 8 years and put money away, so we can hold out,” said Turcotte. “We don’t want to go back when it’s not safe.”

NEW RESTAURANTS DON’T QUALIFY

Restaurants Canada says the situation with the province’s independent restaurants is dire. 

According to Restaurants Canada Vice-President David Lefebvre, seven out of 10 restaurants, especially independent ones, are worried about cash flow and liquidity going into the reopening. 

“We also have 10 per cent of restaurateurs that say the lock is on the door—no way they’re going to reopen,” said Lefebvre. 

Lefebvre is hoping to see a non-eviction policy for restaurants and existing aid packages extended to those who don’t qualify. 

Claudia Fancello, who opened Etna Bar Aperitif in December, says her Villeray wine bar isn’t eligible for government assistance. 

“We’re too young to actually receive any financial aid from any level of government,” said Fancello. “It’s been very very difficult because of that.”

Because of childcare needs and the small space, she can’t imagine reopening the dining room anytime soon. 

“I think it’s going to be a long time before independent restaurants are really going to be able to reopen,” she said. 

While Etna was never designed for takeout meals, they will start offering a small menu as of next week. 

“After hearing from so many of our clients say that they wanted a little piece of us in their home, we just decided to try.”

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