Coronavirus: Longtime Toronto bar closes as restaurants fight to survive
A popular bar in Toronto’s east end is permanently closing its doors, an outcome one advocacy group believes could become widespread as COVID-19 containment measures continue to batter the industry.
Prohibition Gastrohouse, a fixture for 13 years along Queen Street East near Broadview Avenue, will not reopen following the pandemic, its owner, Michael Summerfield, told Global News.
He said when he first closed the bar in March, it was supposed to be temporary.
“We thought it would just be a week or so and then we would reopen,” he said.
“We didn’t realize how serious this, in fact, was.”
A combination of high debt and no revenue proved to be unsustainable, Summerfield explained.
“Our basic economy of our restaurant is analogous to the economy of the world,” he said.
“One month of not having any income just sinks the ship.”
Next door at Eastbound Brewing Co., Dave Watson has pivoted his business to delivery and online sales, but he said revenue has still dropped by more than half compared to before COVID-19.
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“It’s no longer about making money. This is about survival,” he said.
“It’s about mitigating losses. It’s about how long we can do that for.”
On March 24, the Ontario government ordered all non-essential businesses to close. Since then, restaurants and bars have been restricted to offering take-out and delivery.
Industry advocacy group Restaurants Canada forecasts widespread closures in the next three months if conditions don’t improve, with one in two independent restaurants reporting in a new survey they would not survive.
At least three quarters of respondents reported rent as their main source of debt, the group said.
Restaurants Canada is calling for a moratorium on commercial evictions and lock-outs, government rent assistance and continued support as the economy recovers.
At the daily media briefing on Thursday, Mayor John Tory said the city is still determining what an easing of restrictions on dine-in restaurants could look like, including possible limits on seating.
“One of the things that we’ll have to take into account secondary to public health … is what is the impact of any decision you make, any option you choose on the viability of those businesses,” Tory said.
The bar and restaurant owners who spoke to Global News said any restriction on patrons would be difficult to manage.
“If we’re not operating at 100 per cent, that’s something where the margin gets eaten right away,” said Watson.
Looking at his shuttered bar, Michael Summerfield said he knew it was time move on.
“Having patrons in your restaurant that are six feet apart — how are you going to make any money?”
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