Briones: Small business owners in Ottawa stay for dear life

May 7 is the last day of business support programs for COVID-19 for wages and rent from the federal government, and as a restaurant owner I dread it.

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It’s finally summer, and in good weather business is booming in the food and beverage industry. However, our numbers are still not at pre-pandemic levels even though our charges are now higher than ever.

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May 7 is the last day of business support programs for COVID-19 for wages and rent from the federal government, and trust me, as this day comes and goes like everyone else in most people, as a restaurant owner I dread it. These programs are the reason many of us have remained working during lockouts in the past, hitting two years.

We have come a long way and even though most of the restrictions have been removed, the reality is that our sales remain low at pre-pandemic levels: in my case, between 40- and 50-per-cent more. low. Combine that with staffing issues, the need for higher wages to attract talent and higher food costs due to inflation and it’s a recipe for sleepless nights. It has me asking: what’s the point of keep this business going?

At this point, I would consider the break even a big win.

In a recent interview, Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), said that 60 percent of businesses are still earning less than before the pandemic. The average small business is also burdened with $ 160,000 in new debt from the past two years, which he said will only be repaid by higher income.

“They really need to earn more than they did before the pandemic to get rid of (debt),” he said.

The federal government’s Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loans are due by the end of this year and I have no idea how this can be done, from perspective.

The truth is, there are no more support programs, emergency loans must be repaid by the end of the year, operating costs are higher than before, consumer confidence is lower than pre-pandemic levels and also our sales. Office and government workers have not been able to return to their offices full-time-and probably never will.

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Not surprisingly, long -time and beloved businesses like The Table – a business that has been a staple in the Wellington West and Westboro area for 22 years – are closing permanently. Sadly, they had the courage to answer the question I keep thinking about every night: what is the point of maintaining this business?

The summers in Ottawa are very short; we have the next 16 weeks or so to turn our businesses around, compete for talent and open doors to customers who have waited a long time to eat out.

Continue to support the local. The stakes are high as we stay in our businesses for dear life.

Karla Briones is a local immigrant entrepreneur and owner of Global Pet Foods Kanata & Hintonburg; Freshii Westboro; founder of the Immigrants Developing Entrepreneurs Academy; and an independent business consultant. The opinions here are his own. His column appears every two weeks.