As restaurants brace for cold weather, second wave, industry seeks meal subsidy

HALIFAX — Canada’s restaurant industry is bracing for the impact of patio closures as cold weather arrives, with experts saying the loss of open-air seating could be devastating.

Food service experts say without targeted government aid, the combination of reduced seating capacity and a potential second wave of COVID-19 could cripple the industry.

David Lefebvre, vice-president of Restaurants Canada, is calling on Ottawa to directly support the industry through meal subsidies.

He says while the throne speech extended the federal wage subsidy and a business aid program, subsidizing customer meals would directly help struggling restaurants survive.

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, says restaurants are being creative with heaters and blankets to keep patios open longer.

While he agrees more targeted aid is needed, he calls meal subsidies "food stamps for the rich" and says New Brunswick’s rebate program on food and drink is a better alternative.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2020.

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