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Restaurant owners having ‘panic attacks’ as Ontario implements new restrictions on indoor dining

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On top of the federal aid, Ontario announced $300 million in funding for businesses in the impacted areas, including relief on property taxes and utility bills. Specifics on the new funding weren’t immediately available on Friday afternoon, with the government promising more detail “in the coming days.”

Bonacini Restaurants President and CEO Andrew Oliver at the companies restaurant Canoe in Toronto. Photo by Peter J Thompson/National Post

At a news conference Friday, a visibly shaken Ontario Premier Doug Ford repeatedly asked people in the province to order takeout.

“I didn’t sleep last night,” he said. “I know what this will do to businesses that are already struggling.”

But takeout won’t be enough for many businesses, and they may have to take on more debt to survive.

Donna Dooher, the owner of Mildred’s Temple Kitchen in Toronto’s Liberty Village, said the total she’s willing to take on to keep her popular restaurant afloat is $100,000, which would take 18 to 24 months of strong, post-pandemic sales to pay back.

In the busy patio season this summer, with 35 per cent of her staff back to work, Dooher would sometimes think that maybe she could live with a bigger debt in order to get through the pandemic. But even in peak patio season, she was still operating at a loss and dependent on the federal wage subsidy to keep open.

“I will admit, there are days when I go home and just sit down and shake my head and say, ‘Maybe now is the time to cut the losses,’” she said. “You can’t just keep digging.”

Dooher said her plan as of Friday was to keep going, stay below that $100,000 number and make it through the winter selling takeout, pancake mix and frozen, ready-to-bake biscuits.

“We’re not close to that number yet,” she said. “We also know we’re coming into our hardest months.”

— With files from the Canadian Press 

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