By Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative
The Ridgetown Independent
Chatham-Kent officials are encouraging residents to support local restaurants.
Mayor Darrin Canniff is a leading voice behind the movement. Despite patios becoming less inviting due to colder weather, he said there are still options for diners who want to help the hospitality industry during the pandemic.
“We need to support the restaurants,” said Canniff. “Restaurants are a huge part of our community.”
According to Canniff, Chatham-Kent needs to step up and make an effort to get out to restaurants, even though it might be easier to sit at home.
Currently, restaurants and bars in Ontario can have up to 50 customers indoors, and physical distancing is required. Those restrictions aren’t expected to loosen any time soon, as Minister of Health Christine Elliott announced a four-week pause on the province’s reopening plans because of a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Chatham-Kent Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire said he has spoken with restaurants who are considering outdoor heaters to keep patios open for as long as possible. He noted it is only a temporary solution as winter is quickly approaching.
In June, the municipality set up a $200,000 small business grant recovery program to help businesses impacted by the pandemic. Successful applicants could receive up to $5,000. Shropshire also said Chatham-Kent Council had made efforts to try and support local businesses.
“Council is continuing to monitor what the situation looks like for restaurants and all of our businesses,” said Shropshire. “Depending on how long things last and what sort of feedback we’re getting from the community, we might be going back to council to see what we can do.”
Shropshire said the municipality has very small windows on where they can actually provide support. He added the vast majority of the funding is really coming from the province and the federal government.
“At the same time, we’re trying to keep our property taxes low for the same group of people, not just restaurateurs but all of our taxpayers that have suffered financially.”