Sask. Party government leaves restaurants in the lurch

REGINA - NDP Economy and Jobs Critic Aleana Young joined with Joshua McLean, owner Homestead Bar A Vin in Regina today to call on the Sask. Party government to extend off-sale privileges for restaurants and taverns as they continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic on their businesses. 

“The Sask. Party government has done a real disservice to small businesses like restaurants and tavern through the course of the pandemic. They were told to stay open while their customers were told to stay home — leaving many small businesses with the  worst of both worlds,” said Young. “Now that restrictions are being lifted, it makes no sense to hit them with a surprise decision that will impact bottom-lines and business viability with no warning.”

In March of 2020, as a means of aiding restaurants and taverns, the government allowed these businesses to sell off-sale alcohol. Despite the fact that the Sask. Party government has long targeted July 11, 2021 as the date for COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted, restaurant and tavern owners were only informed on July 7 that these privileges would be removed. On July 8 NDP Deputy Leader Nicole Sarauer wrote to SLGA minister Jim Reiter - that letter has not received a reply.

“This last-minute decision is a serious blow to my business, my employees and many others,” said McLean. “We’re not asking for a hand-out here, we’re asking for this government to recognize the serious losses we have suffered just trying to stay afloat for the last sixteen months.”

Although all remaining public health restrictions have been lifted as of yesterday, the food and beverage sector is a long way from business as usual. A recent poll by Restaurants Canada shows that although the usually busy summer season is upon us, forty per cent of Canadians are still hesitant to return to dining-in. Further, nearly half of restaurant owners are concerned about bankruptcy.

“The Sask. Party government needs to step up and admit they have made a mistake,” said Young. “We’re calling on the government to immediately reverse this decision while they review the off-sale policy and to commit to providing businesses with a minimum 60-day notification of any permanent decision.”

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