A lot of our suppliers are done, they have thrown in the towel: Venue owner
Small business owners pushed to their financial edge due to prolonged COVID-19 lockdowns are prepared to take drastic measures - including defying lockdown restrictions - to protect their livelihoods, according to the head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
“The number of tweets and emails I've received from business owners ready to defy lockdowns is growing by the minute, especially in Ontario,” CFIB President Dan Kelly said in several tweets posted on Tuesday.
While Kelly doesn’t recommend breaking provincial restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, he also understands the immense pressure business owners are currently under.
“I don't think governments appreciate how close we are to society's breaking point,” he wrote. “If you were in the position of losing your business, your economic future, your home, what would you do?”
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, indoor dining and gyms in several Ontario regions have been closed for more than 300 days, while salons and other non-essential retailers have been shut down for roughly 200 days.
Provincial governments recently implemented tougher COVID-19 restrictions amid another sharp rise in infections, although some provinces such as Saskatchewan have already unveiled roadmaps to reopening their economy.
The Ontario government confirmed Thursday the stay-at-home order and all other public health restrictions will be extended until June 2.
Some business owners have already taken bold stands against the rules including a BBQ restaurant owner in Toronto who was arrested after allowing indoor dining, and a gym in Mississauga, Ont. whose owners face several charges for violating health rules.
Ben Graci, who runs the The Doctor’s House banquet hall and XXI Chophouse restaurant in Vaughan, Ont., is also frustrated with the government's inaction. He told BNN Bloomberg he hasn't generated any revenue over the past 13 months, while incurring monthly costs of up to $130,000.
He's applied for various government programs but only qualified for the wage subsidy.
Graci worries about the growing debt load incurred not only by him, but the industry as a whole.
“We haven’t done anything to cause this, and to get to the end of all this and owe millions of dollars, there’s really no reason at that point for a lot of us to reopen in this industry,” he said in a television interview Thursday.
He said he doesn’t plan on defying the rules though.
“We want to be safe. The last thing we need is an outbreak that would affect the next day’s events or the next week’s events,” he said. “Subsequently we’ve spoken with our insurance company, which said if something like that happens, there’s no coverage.”
While Ontarians hope restrictions will be eased during the summer months, the large events and wedding industries need much more advance notice.
“For us, in my industry, we book weddings or events eight to 24 months in advance, so it doesn’t really help me,” Graci said.
Kelly said governments of all levels are not doing enough to support businesses through the latest COVID-19 restrictions.
“We need to find an immediate pathway to provide support to business owners facing permanent closure due to COVID restrictions,” he tweeted. “This means finding ways to allow them to operate with limited capacity.”