Ask a restauranteur what scares them the most and you will often hear them utter these three words, ‘winter is coming.’ It’s obviously worse this year with dining rooms already barren from further government restrictions recently thrust upon the industry amid the second wave of COVID-19. And let’s not forget, the food-service industry is still reeling from the first wave.
It’s sad to think about how many local independent restaurants will be left standing when this pandemic ends. Restaurants Canada are warning that 50 per cent of them will close permanently by March.
For the owners of Barrie’s new Mexhico Restaurant, which is authentically Mexican and serves dishes of the vegetarian and vegan variety, this winter could spell the end before it ever really began.
The restaurant is owned by two first-generation immigrant families who’ve put everything they have into it. It’s all their blood, sweat and tears. They made the tables from hand, the artwork, and the menu all from scratch.
Owner and chef Emmanuel Flores is “very afraid” they will lose it all and he feels calls for help are falling on deaf ears.
“We might lose everything we’ve built so far and we would be forced to start from zero once more,” said Flores.
Flores recently invited Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to have a seat in their “empty dining room” to talk about how everyone is “in this together.”
This venture hasn’t been easy and we would like to share our hardships with our customers and our government. We signed…Posted by mexhico_restaurant on Sunday, November 22, 2020
Flores thinks Barrie’s restaurant scene will look a lot different after this winter if something isn’t done soon to help. We heard that same call during the first wave of COVID-19. And of course, political things did happen, albeit, the programs were not perfect.
The federal government’s first attempt to help restaurants was contingent on landlords opting into a rent program. It didn’t really work too well. as landlords didn’t exactly flock to it, which is not overly surprising.
The new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy began Monday, replacing that Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program the Feds introduced back in the spring. The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest on a sliding scale – but that is based on revenue declines.
The problem for new businesses like Mexhico Restaurant is that they have no previous revenue to show how COVID-19 impacted their sales.
Flores says he’s still trying to wrap his head around the new program and if it helps them in any way.
New businesses like his are also having trouble qualifying for other streams of financial aid. Arms of the government were offering loans, but again, they were mostly for businesses that have been in operation for at least 24 months and are generating revenue.
The Ontario government did put a moratorium on commercial rent evictions in place, but that’s really just a band aid solution. And hundreds of thousands of Canadians have signed petitions asking for the outright cancellation of rents and mortgage payments for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggests that’s not going to happen.
Flores says rent cancellation would be great but he points out there are many more expenses like investment debts that still need to be paid.
“When we get through this, businesses like ours will need to concentrate on rebuilding on what’s left,” he said. “I don’t know what the winter will bring and how hard it will be on us, but what I do know is that we won’t give up. We would give everything we got to overcome all these challenges. We won’t go out without a fight.”
The two families have been working day and night since February 1st to see their dreams come true. “We did most of the renovations ourselves, a lot of long nights that turned into early mornings,” said Flores. “It was definitely just the beginning of what we knew it would be a difficult venture, but we never imagined COVID was going to be one of the biggest obstacles we would have to face.”
As if the obstacles of starting a restuarant business and dealing with a global pandemic weren’t enough, the two families arrived at their new restaurant one day to see a car had driven into their building.
Back in April we had a customer who couldn’t wait any longer for us to open, and created his own drive thru….Posted by mexhico_restaurant on Sunday, July 12, 2020
“Right at the beginning, on April 18th, a car impacted our building and destroyed our windows and did some interior damage to the restaurant, that set us back so much, dealing with insurance companies is never easy even when is not your fault. Our windows got replaced September 11th and we opened on the 16th,” said Flores. “Personally I have always dreamed of owning a restaurant.”
Those dreams began for Flores when he was a child and wanted to go to culinary school in France and become a Michelin star chef.
“Maybe I am not a Michelin star chef, but every day I put all my heart and soul into this restaurant, and we all do everything we can to make sure everyone leaves Mexhico with the best experience.”