Coronavirus: Montreal bars worried they’ll go out of business

COVID-19 has forced businesses across Canada to shut their doors indefinitely and now bar owners say they’re being shunned from financial compensation.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the new Business Credit Availability Program, which will provide more than $10 billion in additional support to businesses through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada.

The reaction at first was positive when bar owners found out they’d be eligible for compensation, according to the Crescent Street Merchants Association. But that quickly took a turn for the worst.

The Business Development Bank of Canada’s (BDC) application for financing excludes the following businesses:

  • Bars
  • Lounges, similar establishments
  • Casinos, bingo halls, racetracks, online gambling sites, etc.
  • Pawnshops and “quasi-financial institutions”
  • Anything in the sex industry
  • Businesses that incite any form of violence, hatred or discrimination

“Really? We’re in the same category as sex traffickers? This is what the government thinks of us?” said Cresent Merchant’s Association president Steve Siozios. “We don’t deserve that kind of treatment.”

Crescent street was for a long time known for its nightlife and bar scene. Many bars still stand strong in the area, but many worry the pandemic and lack of financial aid will push them out of business.

“Our merchants are extremely disappointed that our hard-working men and women, which help move the economy and create jobs, are being treated as though their very legal activities are somehow morally reprehensible and unworthy of saving,” said Greene in a press release.

Siozios said he’s worried the money will go to big corporations and leave smaller businesses to die.

“Landlords are salivating at the idea of smaller businesses not being able to pay their rent,” said Siozios.

—  With files from Global’s Erica Alini and Hannah Jackson

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