Tax exemptions needed to save Chinese restaurant industry during outbreak: Catering association

Thousands of restaurant workers in Richmond and across Metro Vancouver will lose their jobs and livelihoods, if action isn’t taken soon to help curb losses resulting from fears associated with the coronavirus outbreak, according to an industry organization.

“Many restaurateurs have lost 50 per cent of their business since B.C. confirmed its first case (of coronavirus) in late January. People tried to stay away from crowds as panic is spreading fast across the local Chinese community,” said William Tse, director of Canada Catering Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Chinese restaurant owners.

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On Tuesday, the association announced a strategic plan which includes urging all three levels of government to support Chinese eateries by offering six-month tax exceptions on their municipal property tax, Provincial Sales Tax (PST) and federal Goods and Services Taxes (GST).

“If no one steps up to take any action, restaurant industry workers will lose their jobs soon, which could be devastating for the local economy. Thousands of workers are going to apply for unemployment insurance.

“Also, these workers are the most vulnerable part of our society. They make a living on tips and minimum wage,” noted Tse. “Where can they go after losing their jobs?”

The Canada Catering Association also put forward several recommendations for restauranteurs, including improving hygiene practices, strengthening food delivery services and offering 20 per cent discounts. 

Regarding hygiene, Tse said restaurants have been encouraged to reinforce their sanitation protocol, setting up hand sanitizer at the front door, for example.

“We will also ask customers if they have been to China recently. For people who haven’t self-quarantined for two weeks, restaurant staff won’t allow them to come in. We would recommend them to stay in hotels and use the food delivery service,” said Tse. 

Restaurants aren’t the only ones hurting, Tse noted. The tourism industry has also seen a drop in bookings since the outbreak garnered international attention in January. 

“We hope the crisis ends soon, and customers can regain their trust and come out and dine at their favourite Asian restaurants.” But, right now, many are “at the end of their rope,” said Tse.

As of Thursday, Feb. 20, the coronavirus had infected 75,781 people around the world, mostly in mainland China, and killed 2,130. Five cases have been confirmed in B.C.

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