'Horrible, in a word': Restaurants looking to continue federal subsidies

It’s no secret that restaurants have been struggling during the pandemic, with finer dining establishments arguably feeling it the most because of the higher cost of quality ingredients and the need for experienced staff.

“The profit margins are very low in this kind of restaurant,” said Edin Pehilj, owner of Garlic’s of London.

Owner of Waldo’s on King, Mark Kitching, echoes that statement, calling the last two years horrible for profits.

Although both restaurants say business has been much better in the past four months, they are still in need of financial support in order to fully recover from the hit they took in 2020 and 2021.

A recent survey from Restaurants Canada shows seven out of 10 restaurants are currently dependent on government wage and/or rent subsidies.

And eight out of 10 restaurants will need federal subsidies expanded past the cut off date of October in order to survive the fall and winter seasons.

“Eighty percent of restaurants in Ontario are either losing money or breaking even. Who wants to go to work everyday and break even?” said Kitching.

It’s unclear, at this time, whether the government will extend wage subsidies for the restaurant industry.

But many are also asking the government to lift the current restrictions placed on these types of businesses.

“It doesn’t make sense that you can go to an arena; watch a hockey game, you can be up enjoying the hockey game, screaming and yelling like everybody’s supposed to, and tell me that’s safer than sitting in a restaurant,” said Kitching.

But medical officer of health for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, Dr. Chris Mackie, says it’s because of the rules around masking for restaurants.

“The main difference between restaurants and some of these other settings is that you have people primarily unmasked for long periods of time and relatively close to each other sitting at a table and so from that perspective it does make sense to have some additional restrictions in restaurants,” he told CTV News London.

Until restrictions are lifted for restaurants, local owners continue to look for the support of the government, and even more so, support from Londoners through dining in or taking out in order to keep in business.