Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
A pair of city councillors are serving up the idea independently owned restaurants should be offered two half-priced specials: 50 per cent off both property and business taxes.
Winnipeg industry representatives say they would like to order those menu items, if they become available.
Couns. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) and Shawn Nason (Transcona) put forward the motion at Friday’s council meeting to offer the half-off deal, good for as long as the provincial government restricts indoor capacity for restaurants to 50 per cent of normal business.
Eating establishments had previously endured weeks of having dining rooms completely closed due to novel coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
Klein said local restaurants need the assistance to help ensure they don’t close their doors permanently.
"We keep saying: we’re in this together — but we are not," he said. "At the beginning of COVID-19, I put forward a motion (at city council) to forgive at least the business tax during the restrictions when they couldn’t open, but they didn’t (agree).
"I want us to take a step forward and help the small businesses in the restaurant industry. Let’s be in this together."
Klein said the revenue it would potentially cost the City of Winnipeg could be balanced by other budget items.
"We could save $7.5 million if we decided not to buy half of the new vehicles we are budgeting to buy this year," he said.
"These are all small, family-run businesses. We will feel the economic effects in five, 10 and 15 years, unless we do something now."
The motion was sent to the next executive policy committee meeting for consideration.
Shaun Jeffrey, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant and Food Services Association, could hardly contain his gratitude when told of the motion.
"Someone is doing something for us," Jeffrey said. "We have reached out to the mayor’s office two times, and both times we haven’t heard a response.
"That’s quite sad because our industry is such a big part of Winnipeg. I’ve sat in front of the premier twice during this (pandemic response planning)."
Jeffrey said the city’s current assistance, which gives businesses the choice to defer business tax payments for three months, only means the restaurants will have more to repay.
"This just adds more debt to these extremely stressed operators," he said. "(Friday’s) motion would send help right now to the independent ones — they don’t have the backing of large corporations."
Mayor Brian Bowman said Friday he wasn’t aware of meeting requests from the industry association.
"I will look into that and see where it’s at," he said. "I’m always open for meeting. I’m more than happy to meet with them."
Tony Siwicki, the association’s chairman and third-generation owner of Silver Heights Restaurant, said as a restaurateur, he would welcome the tax relief.
"Absolutely, anything would help," Siwicki said. "Any little help is welcome."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.