Dan Lau will take any help he can get to keep the food and drinks flowing, the lights on and his staff employed at the Yates Street Taphouse.
So a one-time shot of up to $10,000 from the province was welcome news Thursday.
“It’s great … it helps us pay the rent, pay some bills,” Lau said. “At this point everything helps.”
The provincial government announced a funding pool of $50 million to help the 14,000 restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, gyms and fitness centres affected by the March 30 health orders that closed all indoor dining and group fitness gatherings until April 19.
The new Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant gives those businesses up to $10,000 to help with expenses such as rent, insurance, employee wages, maintenance and utilities. The grant can also help cover unexpected costs that resulted from the restrictions, such as the purchase of perishable goods.
For Lau and other foodservice operators caught in what provincial health officer Dr. Henry called a “circuit-breaker” measure to stop surging COVID-19 transmissions, there are still a lot of unknowns.
“Our biggest concern is we don’t know if the order will go beyond April 19,” said Lau. “Our worry is, can we get going after that, or will we be in a total lockdown situation?”
Shellie Gudgeon, owner of Il Terrazzo Ristorante downtown, is putting the finishing touches on another new patio space that will open tonight. Some of the funding to build it has come from the province through a small-business grant and will boost outdoor seating to more than 60.
But installing new decking isn’t easy or cheap with lumber prices at all-time highs and labour availability tight, she said.
The latest funding will help with others costs of running the restaurant, including keeping her staff levels at about 55.
“I worry about my grandchildren, but we’re grateful to the government’s largesse,” Gudgeon said. “This helps us stay open, keep employees.”
She said outdoor seating is the future of restaurants for at least two or three years, despite the rollout of vaccines. “I think our customers will demand it … to sit outside or have that six feet of space between tables,” said Gudgeon. “We’re re-jigging to the future model.”
Ken Beattie, executive director of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild, said he appreciates the quick action by government to address concerns after the March 30 order. “We welcome this additional support as our 200-plus members across B.C. navigate the difficult weeks ahead,” he said. “From patios to growler sales to direct support for small business, every bit helps.”
The latest funds are being pulled from the $345-million Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant program, and the amount a business receives will be based on the number of employees.
Ravi Kahlon, minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation, said the majority of eligible businesses are expected to receive a grant of $5,000.
Keelan Clemens, owner of BPM Fitness Centre in Saanich, said gyms are operating under increasingly difficult health orders, including spacing orders of 2.5 metres in diameter that severely limit numbers and not allowing for spotters while people are lifting weights.
Clemens has applied for previous grants from the province, but has never heard back. He said he will apply for the latest funding, but said any amount “at the end of the day, won’t go far enough” to make a difference on his bottom line.
“Small businesses have accounting, bookkeeping, legal fees … there’s a lot of overhead.”
Requirements for applicants include a business or liquor licence, notice of assessment or lease agreement, a confirmation of majority ownership and operations and payment of taxes in B.C.
Applications will open the week of April 12 and will close on June 4, or until the funds are dispersed.
To register to receive an email notification when applications open, businesses can visit: gov.bc.ca/business-relief