Protected: Mayor Tory’s Summit on the Future of the Hotels, Entertainment, and Hospitality Sectors
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
In Toronto, hotels, restaurants, bars, live theatre and music venues; performing arts companies, corporate and party event spaces; these are the generally small and medium-sized businesses that have been most devastated by the pandemic, decreases in pedestrian life, and require immediate interventions in order to survive the coming weeks and months as the impacts of COVID-19 wear on. This is particularly true in the downtown core. These businesses and organizations are requesting targeted interventions curated for their individual sectors, with relief calibrated to the actual percentage of revenue lost. This sector is one of the hardest hit.
In consultation with the Entertainment and Downtown-Yonge Business Improvement Areas, the Mayor convened a listening session for representatives from these four sectors to lay out the challenges they were facing, and their recommendations for actions by government. In addition to the Mayor, the meeting was also attended by Councillor Brad Bradford, and by elected officials from the federal government: Adam Vaughan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development (Housing) and Rachel Bendayan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade), Julie Dabrusin (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage) and Julie Dzerowicz (Member of Parliament, Davenport). The provincial government was unable to send a representative but was supportive of the session and interested to hear its results.
The meeting was convened by the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) and facilitated by its CEO Mary W. Rowe. Although the focus of this session was Toronto, many of the challenges expressed during the session represent common areas of concern for Canadian cities. CUI is working across the country with partners to raise the issues facing local economies: www.bringbackmainstreet.ca and www.restorethecore.ca.
The liquidity crisis.
Small and medium-sized businesses in the hospitality sector commonly operate on slim profit margins. Due to the economic lockdown and continued social distancing requirements, many of these businesses are reporting sustained 80-90% decreases in revenue, with little reprieve during the summer months. And a number of businesses not able to operate at all due to the shutdown, have seen their revenues reduced by 100%, while most fixed costs have remained. Theatre venues, for instance, have remained closed throughout the summer. While online events may have helped to keep audiences engaged and artists employed, they bring in no additional revenue for these businesses/operations. Many hotels in Toronto’s downtown core are operating at less than 10% capacity. Although chains are present in downtowns, most are franchises with Canadian owners and local workforces. The impact of COVID-19 lockdowns continues to place extraordinary pressure on enterprise cash flows. The latest crisis that needs to be addressed: skyrocketing commercial insurance rates. Another example: restaurants are now allowed to sell takeout alcohol but are forced to pay (and pass along to the consumer) a premium.
Existing government programs need to be more targeted.
Greater supports are required to keep this sector viable in the longer term. The government’s commitment to extend the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program into 2021 is crucial. But concerns were expressed that not all businesses are affected equally by COVID-19, with some sectors (e.g. digital) actually flourishing, while others like hospitality, which depend on foot traffic and tourism, are profoundly challenged. Funding frameworks must be further tailored to provide resources for those hardest hit industries. Hotels, for instance, continue to accumulate debt and 60% – the majority of which are smaller and independently owned – are stating that they are running out of cash to pay staff, in addition to other fixed costs. Furthermore, a significant percentage of the hospitality sector’s downtown workforce are women, newcomers and drawn from racialized communities dependent on public transit to get to work. Public investment needs to prioritize supports for these workers and ensure the sector is able to rebound once travel and other public health sanctions are lifted.
Governments need to support an approach that allows businesses to open and remain open.
Businesses need certainty: to know what they need to do in order to reopen and/or continue to operate safely. Participants in the session urged governments to challenge the hospitality sector to develop its best practices, and set the highest of standards possible in order to ensure public safety and constrain virus transmission, so that their businesses and operations can remain viable. Economic lockdowns are not a sustainable solution to the current crisis. Restaurants and theatres and other mixed venues are keen to work with government to establish protocols – such as seating limits and distancing minimums, as well as promoting the Government COVID-19 APP as another protocol tool to safely access restaurants. This will ensure public safety while continuing to provide patrons with the quality of service and experience they come downtown to experience. Meeting participants cited other cities around the world that are developing their own innovative approaches – and called on Toronto to lead the way.
Need for regulatory clarity and fairness.
While strip clubs and movie theatres were permitted to reopen during the summer in Ontario, live theatre venues have remained closed. This type of regulatory inconsistency confuses consumers, and has also caused significant economic hardship for artists, performers and the larger cultural sector which employs thousands across Toronto. Theatre venues may be difficult to maintain, but they are even harder to establish anew. In Toronto, many of our venues are cultural landmarks, and once lost, they will be unlikely to return. Also, given that performance venues in Toronto are a mix of for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises, government need to find a way to support both. As ticket and sponsorship revenues have dried up, so too has the charitable support that so many cultural organizations have come to rely upon, which is raised through galas, events and donations. The government needs to rethink its tax regime to reincentivize charitable donations, particularly towards operations.
Pivoting from short-term solutions to long-term viability.
All the components of the hospitality sector need to be able to plan for immediate term survival and long-term recovery, which means knowing the longevity of available supports and receiving clear messaging from government. The hospitality sector has much to offer to the policy development process and is looking for governments to engage with them directly as they design continued relief and future investment.
Proposed Actions for Consideration
- Reimagining the Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) Guarantee to support Canadian hotels
- Further tailoring the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy program (CEWS) to those hardest hit businesses (i.e. providing increased funding levels to those that have lost 80-100% of their revenue)
- A Digital Services Tax (DST) to level the playing field between Canadian businesses operating locally and on-line international companies
- A “fixed cost relief program” that provides support in proportion to relative revenue loss
- Larger forgivable loans made available to hardest hit Canadian businesses
- Re-evaluate eligibility requirements that consider some businesses technically “open” and are therefore disqualified from receiving funding granted to businesses that have been forced to close for public health reasons (e.g. restaurants)
- The creation of a charitable donations program for the arts that the federal government would match dollar for dollar (or better) donated towards operating costs
- Greater regulation of the insurance industry in order to make insurance more accessible and prevent fee hikes
- 30% discount off licensee purchases from the LCBO (as in British Columbia)
- Invest in digital infrastructure for the arts/entertainment sectors (could also be a recommendation to the federal government)
- Allow theatres and other live venues to be permitted to reopen at reduced occupancy levels (If churches are allowed to open at 50% occupancy, why not performance venues?)
- In the run-up to the holiday season, the government should implement a sales tax rebate program that encourages people to spend money at local businesses
- Clearer public health messaging to avoid confusion and build public confidence (not erode it)
- More efficient COVID testing and contract tracing to build public confidence
- Continued campaigns to increase consumer confidence and connect businesses with consumers
- The creation of new ‘pop up’ all-season venues to permit customers to feel safe while eating/shopping indoors throughout the winter
- Remove unnecessary red tape for artists looking to use municipal property/spaces – for example encouraging ‘meanwhile leases’
- Greater relief for businesses via property taxes and utilities
- Greater infrastructure investment within Toronto’s downtown core – a participant specifically mentioned the rail deck park and waterfront redevelopment projects
All governments should promote the COVID-19 App, which, when accompanied with more effective tracing/tracking and rapid testing, can effectively be added as a tool for safe access to indoor dining.
The Mayor committed to work with CUI and initiate a joint conversation with provincial and federal governments immediately to address the challenges raised here.
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to email@example.com with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mayor Tory’s Summit – Oct 19th
Mary Rowe [00:00:19] Hi, good morning, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute. Very pleased to be invited by Janice Solomon and the Entertainment BIA and other downtown BIAs to have a session about something so crucial as what’s happening to the hospitality sector here in the city. CUI’s in the connective tissue business around the country. We’re working with communities all over the place. And one of the things that we hear repeatedly, particularly from what we call the Big Six, the largest cities in Canada, is that their core, their downtowns are in freefall. I guess that maybe I’m going to overstate it. Maybe you’re going to tell me differently. But we’re certainly hearing that they are challenged. And so we’re very pleased to be hosting with you. We’re taping this session. You have a number of people watching. And if there are any media by any chance that are watching, we’re going to ask you to treat this as background, please. We’d rather have a candid conversation and we’d rather nothing be attributed. If you need to follow up, you can talk with me afterwards and I can direct you to the people that would give you direct quotes. But media, please, this is only on background. We’re originating this broadcast in Toronto. As everyone knows, we’re going to tape it and we’ll use that internally just so that we all have a record of the meeting. And if anyone wants access to that from this group, just let us know, we’ll give you the link. This is the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit the Annishnabec, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, home to many First Nations, Inuit and Metis across Turtle Island. And we are very cognizant as we go through COVID and continue to live with it, that it affects communities very differently. And we are here to listen to you and hear what the particular challenges are for this sector. Mr. Mayor, I’m going to pass to you please and then we’ll come back and begin the presentations. Thanks, everybody.
Mayor John Tory [00:01:58] Well Mayor- Mary thank you, I’ll be and I’ll be very brief at this juncture, because I got a chance to sort of try to sum up, although that’s often difficult with these kinds of meetings. First of all, can I say thank you to you and to the Urban Institute and also to Adam Vaughan. Adam Vaughan, I think started to talk about this with some of the BIAs and I think that was the genesis of having this. And I thank Adam for that. I want to thank the BIAs who took a part in that, our own Mike Williams and our EDC team and and the institute. I should say I am joined on this session by my colleague, Councillor Brad Bradford, who has taken a keen interest all the way through the sort of pandemic period and before, in- in the sort of the well-being of the smaller businesses. But that includes very much a part of what we’re gonna be talking about today is smaller and bigger businesses. And my colleague Michael Thompson just can’t be with us today, the Deputy Mayor. He just has- just couldn’t make himself available. So and also, I’ll just say I’ve been engaged in discussions and I’m very gratified that they’re as interested as they are with the Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland. Also with Melanie Joly, and with the Prime Minister. It’s interesting, when I had a conversation with him about a week ago, we specifically discussed more in the context, I don’t want to offend anybody else anywhere else in the country that’s looking in on this. But we talked about it a bit, particularly about Montreal and Toronto, because they have great similarities to one another in terms of the sort of the core of the downtown and the way it’s constructed and so on. But I was just gratified at the fact that he was interested in this. And so I was very, you know, I was just gratified by that. It’s a good start. If you can have the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of FedDev, whatever it’s called, you know, and somebody like Adam, all interested and then the BIAs and puts up like this together. So, you know, I hope that what we can do today is to discuss the healthy main street. What I hope we won’t do and I’m saying this in all honesty, because I just think it would be less constructive, is to sort of relitigate what’s gone on in the pandemic. I mean, what’s gone on in the pandemic, we could have days of discussion on that. And I’m not sure anybody would be able to conclude anybody else was right or wrong, because the science is still sort of evolving and people are doing their best to do what is wise. But we are sort of where we are. I think the really important thing, both in the shorter term, in the context of saying, well, even in Toronto, if you look at it today and some of the surrounding municipalities, if things are going to sort of open back up to some sort of Stage 3 or 4 or 5 situation in, you know, even three weeks, you know, do we have massive measures in place to sort of account for both getting back on our feet and stopping further closures as best one could? And do we have measures in place to sort of continue what I think we had just begun? I know it’s frustrating for us because we had some great initiatives with Destination TO and so on to start to sort of promote people doing staycations and dining in- dine-in TO and all this kind of stuff. And that all had to be put on hold, obviously. But, you know, what kind of measures can we embark upon, not just government-assisted measures, but just measures to try and sort of look shorter term? And then I think we have to look obviously at the longer term question, and I would- so- so I, relitigating what’s gone on I’m not sure it’s going to be helpful. Though I would say that if there are points, and I had a microcosm of this meeting the other day with some people from the restaurant industry, and it seems like the insurance issue, for example, and some of the fine points of the federal relief programs are important right now just in terms of keeping people in business so that we have a base to build on when we look at the longer term. And I think, so I think those are things and then, I hope that what we can focus on though, is that helpful initiatives, we can take other individual elements of this whole discussion, whether it’s any government or all governments or BIAs or individual businesses or elements of the private sector, or I’ll call it think tanks, as some of our friends like the Urban Institute who can often help gather people together with ideas, and that we can come out of this with some specific initiatives to undertake and with some plans for joint advocacy. Because I think, you know, part of the problem I think, I’ll just be honest in saying that I think the advocacy on a lot of this stuff has been scattered. That’s why I- and that’s not a bad thing. It’s only that I’m off advocating with Chrystia Freeland, you know, like probably six days out of seven. And she’s very receptive and very, very accessible. But, you know, and I try to do that. Mike Williams did a helpful survey earlier on that formed the basis of what I sort of wrote and spoke to her. But it was incomplete in that it didn’t have some thinking from the Urban Institute or it didn’t necessarily represent all the BIAs, you know what I’m saying? It’s just a scatter. And I think at this stage, which I’ll call a crisis, you know, it’s a crisis now in terms of the future of downtown and main streets and smaller businesses and hospitality and arts related businesses. We need to have all hands on deck with ideally one consistent stream of advice that we’re all advocating to the governments. And I think that’s part of what we hope to get to develop today. So I’ll stop on that note and say that I’m looking forward to watching and listening to the discussion, and I’ll try to sum it up as best one ever could with a very talented and disparate, when I say disparate, I mean, it’s a group of different industries and so on. But I’m just glad we’re all here. I think that’s a good start on getting a consolidated set of advice. And I thank you again, BIAs, Mary, Adam, everybody else for initiating it. On we go.
Mary Rowe [00:06:46] It’s great to have federal colleagues here, I see that Rachel is here and Julie is here. And Adam himself, as you mentioned, was here. So, and there will be others. We asked- we asked for the provinces to- for the province to send some folks. I was just saying to Adam earlier this morning. I actually think there was some willingness on their part to do this, they just- they scheduled as such. So I think what we may anticipate is a follow-up. So if there are things that people are identifying that require provincial government action, we’ll just keep that list and the Mayor will, I’m sure, advocate as will others, on behalf of what we need the province to do as well. So one thing I just would like to say is that at CUI, we’ve been focusing a lot on the two sides of what we see, the same coin being. So Bring Back Main Street which is a big campaign a number of you’ve been helping with this and we’ve had meetings with various groups of you over the last several months. So we’ve got “BringBackMainStreet.ca” happening across the country. And we’re now joining it with “RestoretheCore.ca”. We put those links up. And this is the first of what I hope will be a series of sessions, because, as Mayor Tory suggested, this is a challenge to Montreal, to Vancouver, to Calgary, to Edmonton. And in fact, in the case of Calgary, they’re in many ways ahead of us on this, because they had started to deal with the downturns in terms of the property tax base, for instance, starting in 2013, 2014. And an anecdote from Mayor Daley, the elder Mayor Daley, former mayor of Chicago. Mayor Tory, I don’t know if you know this anecdote. But somebody queried him and said, “Why do you spend so much time and why are you invested so much in the downtown?” And he said, “An apple rots from the core.” So we’re going to talk about the core today, and I’m appreciative that we have people lined up to present. So here’s the word of the day, “brevity”. I need you to really be concise because we got a lot of you to get through, and I’ll- I will stop you if you’re droning on too long. So just keep your comments as cogent as you can. We’re going to hear first from the hotel sector. I know we have four people on the call: Susie, Terry, Edwin and Deepak. And I think Terry and Susie are each going to present. Am I right? So I’ll go to you first, Terry, or you guys duke it out among yourselves. I think, Terry, you’re the first?
Terry Mundell [00:08:46] Over to Susie, thanks.
Mary Rowe [00:08:48] OK, Susie, let’s hear.
Susie Grynol [00:08:49] I’m first, and I’m going to be the first also to hopefully successfully share my screen here. So let me do that right now. And let me see if everyone can see this.
Mary Rowe [00:09:05] You’re good.
Susie Grynol [00:09:09] Fantastic. All right. Brevity is key. So, first of all, thank you for bringing together this very important forum today. I’m delighted to be a part of it. Let me talk about what the hotel industry was very quickly before we get into what it is currently. It was a 22 billion dollar industry proximally 8300 hotels. 300,000 employees. And what’s important here is the far right graph, which is the “who”. Our employees have been identified as the most vulnerable Canadians by both the Bank of Canada and the Government of Canada. These are predominantly women, millennials, visible minorities. This is our workforce breakdown. I just wanted to spend one second here for- for folks on the line. When people think about the hotel industry, sometimes they think that the Marriotts or the Hiltons actually own all of these assets. And these are big American companies. The reverse is actually true. These are predominantly, these are all Canadian-owned. They are predominantly small and medium sized businesses. Usually someone in the community owns that hotel. It’s very much a franchise model. So I just wanted to point that out. The impact of COVID and I agree with the Mayor, let’s not spend a lot of time on this, but it is, it is relevant in so far as we’ve come at the far left of my slide here. You know, the bottom sort of dropped out in winter, spring. And what’s unfortunate is that we’re heading back into that period, into the- into the fall. So we’ll be falling below 30 percent occupancy. And what that means is that you can’t pay the bills. And so moving to the center of the slide, we’ve got most of our hotels did close over the summer, although we were deemed an essential service and we were allowed to stay open. Most hotels did- it didn’t make sense to do that. Then we had most re-open again. And now we are seeing hotels closed across this country on an almost daily basis. Some of them permanently. In terms of how many jobs we’ve lost permanently, there were fourteen thousand at the beginning- 114,000 at the beginning. Now we’ve got close to 60 thousand permanent job losses and these numbers are a couple of weeks old. So I can assure you that they are much higher today, unfortunately. From a revenue decline perspective, most of the industry held between 80 to 100 percent revenue loss in the earlier period. I’m going to call that sort of the May, June period. We did see a slight bump this summer, but I don’t want people to get the impression that- that we had a full recovery. We had some resort properties that did well in rural and resort regions. But the you know, and I know this audience obviously understands this, the urban cores sat virtually empty, as they do today. And that’s really the next iteration of this slide that will be- will be populating once we get our next survey results, will show us back into that May, June territory with an 80 and 100 percent revenue loss. Just in terms of how close we are to the edge and giving folks a snapshot of what we’re dealing with, our latest members’ survey indicated that 75 percent showed they would not be able to remain in business without government- access to government supported financing. We’ll talk about that in a second. 60 percent said they’re going to run out of cash to pay their fixed costs. Ninety percent said that CEWS was instrumental to their survival. The dilemma here is the fixed costs. So in the hotel sector, you’ve got these fixed assets. These are, you know, are- these owners own these properties. Less than one percent would rent. So, so predominantly, the industry owns these assets. And so between 15 and 25 percent of their normal revenue is fixed costs. And so that’s mortgages, property tax, utilities, essential maintenance, you know, core external costs for the hotel. And what’s happened here is that, you know, the hotels that had, you know, cash reserves have now spent them. And so this slide shows the working capital that’s required to pay the bills. This is cumulative over the course of the year. This is done on an average one hundred room hotel. And what you can see is a very scary story as we start to go into this fall period. And indeed, the winter, an average hundred room hotel is going to need more than half a million dollars from somewhere because it’s not coming off revenue in order for them to pay the bills. So the simple truth is that some industries are recovering and others are not and cannot due to the public health restrictions. Unfortunately, we are in the business of bringing people together. Conventions, meetings, hockey tournaments, weddings. These events can’t happen, obviously, because we’re doing our part to support public health. And so we do believe there does need to be a sector specific solution for the hardest hit. And, you know, we’ve obviously been very engaged with the government, both- both us as an industry and as an association, but the broader industry and many folks on the line here today as well. We have formed a coalition called the “HardestHit.ca”, and we’re very pleased to see in the speech from the throne of the federal government, which is where I do- I run our organization and deal with the federal government predominantly, has acknowledged the need for deeper support for the hardest hit. My message today is that this is critical. These are there- and I’m going to now talk about the four key areas where we need critical and immediate action in order for us to survive. So the first is liquidity. The loan program, BCAP, that the government, the federal government offered a number of months ago does not work for the hotel sector. We are- we- where there’s a specific gap for us because we own these assets. The banks have basically said we’re not going to give you money. We’re not giving you money because we have no line of sight when you’re going to be able to repay those bills. We have thousands of hotels right now that don’t have access to capital. And that brings us back to the slide I mentioned earlier with working capital. If it doesn’t come from somewhere, then they permanently shut down. And that’s just, that’s the sheer math of it. So we do need to fix this gap in the BCAP program and make sure that our hotels can access liquidity. This needs to happen immediately within the next couple of weeks. The second piece is the CEWS program. This has been a lifeline for our members, you saw that on a previous slide. It went from 75 percent wage subsidy coverage. We did get a bump in July- in July and August. There was recognition from the government that we have harder hit sectors and then it dropped back down to sixty five percent. Now, we’re very pleased that this line didn’t go all the way down as we thought it would when it was announced in the last iteration. It is holding at sixty five percent, but it doesn’t change the fact that we still have to come up with that other 10 percent. And there’s no money coming in the door. So our recommendation on the wage subsidy program is that the government further tailor it to the hardest hit industries. Right now there are businesses at five and 10 percent revenue loss that are still getting wage subsidy support. Our argument here today is that I don’t know that there is as critical a risk that those businesses are not going to be there. But there is a risk that we’re going to lose this critical infrastructure if we don’t do a tailoring of this program. So our recommendation is that we tailor it further, that we give more coverage to those businesses hovering in the 80 to 100 percent revenue loss category. And if you look at the center of the slide, you see that there is a- there’s an arrow there where it’s hovering today at 65 percent- percent coverage. We believe this needs to be tailored further if it’s going to be effective. And that that’s our recommendation on that slide. On the fixed-cost relief, our key recommendation here, and we did see this as a commitment in the speech from the throne, is that there be a tailored program that provides fixed-cost relief in proportion to relative revenue loss. And so we have a recommendation here. We have provided this to- to the federal government for consideration. I’m happy to come back to this at a later time. And our last recommendation is around fair taxation. We’ve had an ongoing issue in the hotel space for some time, with our competitor in the short-term rental market, which is AirBnB and other short-term rental platforms. This group has been existing and really permeating for some time. This is a critical problem I know in Toronto. Although you do have some- some- some good regulations there, but there is a role for the federal government to step in and regulate a level playing field and that is around taxation. And so our recommendation here, and it was included in all the political platforms in the last election and we saw it show up again in the speech from the throne, is a commitment to level the playing field and ensure that digital busi- businesses pay tax. Our recommendation is that we do that immediately in the next budget and apply tax fairly to all accommodation players. Rolled up all into one, these are the four recommendations that we need urgently to stay alive. The first is to address the liquidity challenges, particularly for the asset-heavy, hardest hit, to proportionately apply the wage subsidy program to ensure that the fixed-cost relief program that the government, the federal government is currently working on also benefits the hardest hit in terms of its proportional support, and for to level the playing field. Why- this is my last slide- why we think this is critical, is- is, you know, from a, you know, who we employ is critically important. The government is going to support these employees one way or the other. But it makes a hell of a lot more sense to keep these businesses intact. Number two, we’re a good investment. These are not rinky dink organizations. These were- these were strong, viable, healthy businesses that will come back. There will be pent-up demand. People are going to want to get married and have conventions and be face to face again. We are deeply committed to health and safety. We supported public health during this crisis by turning some hotels into hospitals, into hostels and at great expense to the industry, putting into place, you know, deep health and safety programs to ensure that both guests and employees are safe, including those who want to self isolate. And we continue to provide that service to- to- to Canadians today. All the other businesses that depend on this critical infrastructure, you know, airlines, weddings, you know, MPs. I mean, we can’t have hotels, particularly in some of these rural regions, just start to go under and in droves. Again, we are small and medium sized businesses and we are the good guys. Number six, we’re the good guys, we’re the ones that pay our tax. We’re the ones that play by the rules. And we believe that we’re certainly worthy of this investment.
Mary Rowe [00:19:45] Thanks, Susie. That pretty much runs the- you went 11 minutes in that sector. So, Terry, if you want to say something, I can give you 30 seconds. You got anything to add to Susie’s presentation? Also, I’m assuming we’ll be able to distribute those slides, Susie. So if you could get those to Jamie and our staff, that’d be great, we can make them available. Terry, 30 seconds if you want to add something.
Terry Mundell [00:20:02] Yeah. Thanks, Mary. I think I just want to say I agree with everything Susie has said. I think the important component here is to understand is we need help and we need it now. The bottom line here is that we’re not going to be able to survive until June without getting some sort of financial support as Susie laid out. The core of the city is hollowed out right now from a hotel perspective. You make call arounds on Friday, I can’t find anybody who’s in double digit occupancy rates. We’re running six, seven, eight percent downtown. The airport, remember, one of our great generators, is the same. I mean, the airport area is running six to eight percent as well. So we are really struggling just to get to the next level. We need to get to June, is what’s happening here. And we need that support to help us with liquidity, to help us with fixed costs, get to June. We also have a situation when we start to look after, gee, we’ve got a variety of pieces of businesses which we’ve got signed deals on, but are now starting to leave us. They’re starting to move away from us. So even from a recovery perspective, we need- we need all the work that Susie’s done at HAC. We’ll push the federal government, the provincial government, the municipal governments on a variety of other fixed-costs that we have, is we need to get that solidified first and foremost. Remember, one in four people in our industry are out of work. So there’s no recovery to the tourism sector without having a recovery from the hotel sector. Without a doubt. So at that, at the end of the day, I’ll just leave it at that other than to say we need help, we need it now and we need it from a variety of sectors. It’s- it’s really important to get us through to be able to drive the economy.
Mary Rowe [00:21:43] OK, thanks, Terry. Thanks, Susie. Let’s hear from the restaurants, please. Again, we’ve got Tony, Oliver, Barry and John. And my understanding is, Tony, you’re going to give a short brief and then each of the others will speak. Just- I’m going to run that clock- ten minutes. Off you go there, Tony.
Tony Elenis [00:21:59] Thank you. On behalf of the group, thank you for all you’re doing, leading the fight against this pandemic. We know you are faced with highly complex and demanding decisions. It started as a health crisis, an economic crisis. And now we’re going to an emotional crisis. An emotional crisis that has began devastating the faces behind a business, the owners and the managers who have spent their lifetime investing and building a business that many frontline employees, the families in the huge workforce, in the supply chain, while other businesses are slowly and progressively recovering. Hospitality, restaurants have a very painful road ahead. Restaurants are regretfully unique as they are mandated to close and have unbearable capacity limitations. Restaurants are hanging off the edge of a cliff. So financial program, support needs to be mediated. It needs to stay fluid till the industry is sustainable. It is critical that support needs to assist those sectors that are hurting the most. As was mentioned, with additional benefits given to those, that are on lockdown, it’s only fair. In a slim margin industry, ninety eight percent of the revenue goes back to the economy immediately through wages, goods and services into government. Restaurants need to survive to keep the Main Street vibrancy alive. And it’s for locals, it’s for visitors and to continue to greatly support the community in the huge job growth. The restaurants did profit margins. They get tough. And it’s a tough business model. That’s right. In one month’s rent is so challenging and so tough. Restaurants are accumulating depth. It will have a grim time operating through cover. Even in the post-COVID period, if the core restaurant financial model is not supported, I’m referring to lingering daily operating expenses such as beverage, Copperhill pricing and credit card merchant fees, which are areas where government can initiate positive outcomes. Maybe we can help for the composition of this. A big issue for us remains to be consumers and their confidence. In turn, government’s trust in dining indoors. The city of Toronto and restaurants can work together to build consumer confidence by building a safer indoor environment. Short of a medical breakthrough for Federal government COVID-19 has the potential to justice could do that. But we all need to take it to the next level with the city of Toronto should move forward and with the regulatory COVID-19 our program, I mean, regulatory green thumbs up if you know, high works should be mandatory to enter any premises in which people are taking their must to to eat and drink. Only grief pops up. Employees and suppliers will be allowed. All current safety protocols will continue to be full till industry demonstrates this protocol works. Is my upir extreme and in some might say controversial. However, extreme crisis and extreme approaches need to bring a solution anyway. Now, there is no no one more suitable to share the experiences and use of this crisis on the operative herself. So I’ll turn it over to John Sinopoli from the Asghari. Thanks John.
John Sinopoli [00:25:36] Thank you, Tony. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for the opportunity to contribute to this forum. As the others in our group after me will address the federal programs and the unique concerns of operators in large spaces, I would like to address the City of Toronto and the province’s initiatives to date and our suggestions moving forward. Let me begin by commending the many programs already underway, including CafeTO, Dine-Out TO, ShowLoveTO, the sidewalk patios and the encouragement of direct takeout. We are also grateful for the mayor’s direct advocacy with Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, Minister of Finance Rod Philips and Premier Ford. With the city ceasing contact tracing and the province failing to provide both sufficient and rapid testing, it is our industry that was shut down for the second time while the rest of the retail economy is allowed to chug along. Significant and robust scientific evidence for this shutdown is yet to be provided as hundreds of thousands of jobs hang in the balance. We applaud the province for making permanent our ability to sell alcohol with takeout as this is an incredibly important revenue stream. However it is very clear that substantial support is still required from the province to regulate the insurance industry, with many in this industry experiencing three to seven times rate hikes on business insurance during Covid. This takes price gouging that governments and citizens are concerned about to the next level. Others in our industry are seeing outright denials of business insurance, in the absence of no claims of for- years of being a business. This is just unacceptable. Our industry would like to see support provided from the province with a 30 percent discount for licensee purchases off LCBO retail tax, similar to what British Columbia has implemented. This will help provide us a more sustainable business model as we try to survive through the pandemic, as well as during the slow return to norma. Once the pandemic is over, it is almost inconceivable to my colleagues in other jurisdictions around North America. When I explained to them that we pay 15 percent more for beer and six percent more for spirits than the retail consumer, and yet are expected to resell this alcohol at a profit. We implore both the municipal and provincial governments to reconsider positions on blanket shutdowns of the restaurant industry and to employ more oversight, more compliance resources and more targeted approach and efforts to control outbreaks. Our public health departments need to understand how to marry their scientific knowledge with our decades of best in-class expertize and use meaningful consultation to create protocols that actually work. We know that Toronto has what it takes to do better. We want to be the shining example to other industries as models of how to operate while mitigating every risk possible. We cannot do that if we are closed. We remain here at the table strongly advocating for approach- or change in approach. Thank you very much.
Oliver Geddes [00:28:32] Good morning. My name is Oliver Geddes, I’m an owner of the Easing the Fifth in downtown Toronto, as well as a board member of the entertainment district BIA. I’m speaking to you this morning on behalf of many of my peers that also own and operate independent venues in the hospitality sector in downtown Toronto. As the length of this pandemic continues, so is the gutting downtown. The combination of business and office closures, work from home policies and fear mongering in relation to downtown is a continued recipe for economic disaster moving into the future. People do not choose to live, visit or set up their offices and businesses in downtown urban settings because of the traffic or the noise or the air pollution. They choose to live, work and visit downtown urban settings because of the vibrancy and energy that a functioning urban core creates. This vibrancy is something that bars, restaurants, clubs, theaters, sporting events, concert halls, hotels and conventions centers play a huge part in creating. If our downtown core and the businesses that operate in them are not supported in a big way, there will be no alternative other than mass closures. A cavalcade of boarded up storefronts and for lease signs that amount to a massive heart attack not only for our city but other urban centers across the country. If this hollowing out of our downtown core continues, we will have, in fact, create a new type of contagion, an economic one. The economy of Toronto is the largest contributor to the Canadian economy at 20 percent of national GDP. The census metropolitan area of Toronto pumped out three hundred and thirty billion dollars in 2013, the last year. Which stats can conducted this exercise? That’s virtually equivalent to the GDP of the entire province of Alberta. In that same year, and within spitting distance of Canada’s second largest province, Quebec, at three hundred thirty seven billion, it is also larger than the six smallest provinces combined. I bring this all to your attention as we see the issues in Toronto core and its recovery is a national one, not just a regional one. For those of you on the call today representing our federal government. We implore you to step up and provide more in the way of Stew’s rent relief, larger, forgivable loans and credit card rates for those of you representing the province. We need help with our insurance rates and the way in which these companies are conducting themselves. Thank you for your time. It’s greatly appreciated.
Mary Rowe [00:30:34] OK, Barry, you got a minute. What do you want to say?
Barry Taylor [00:30:42] I’m just going to speak from the heart and let it- I think everyone’s covered the main points. Restaurants and hospitality, we are the fundamental community. People that come to our restaurants are part of the community. People are our partners, our suppliers, are part of our community. And of course, our guests are part of our community. This is hitting home and hurting. I think you can hear it in my voice, every day is difficult. You feel like you’re letting people down. We’re losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. We need the help. We want to survive. We need to be there for our community when it’s time to come back. Most of us are acting responsibly. I was THE very first restaurant to close down. Pretty sure I have that claim because the Raptors were in my restaurant when they were ushered out into- ushered out because they just played against Gobert, who had the Coronavirus. It’s been- I haven’t achieved more than seven percent of my sales since that fateful day in March- March 11th. I’ve qualified for nothing but CEWS even though I’m an independent operator. So we need something of a quick appeal process to say, how do I not get read just because I am a bowling alley in a restaurant? Takes a lot of square footage. And yes, I’m in the- in the heart of Toronto, so I’m paying expensive rent. But I didn’t get what- I didn’t qualify for anything and there was no appeal in that gap process. I think I speak on behalf of all the restauranteurs, I know my story is not unique and it’s shared by thousands and the hoteliers and the gyms and other- other businesses that are feeling targeted. But we need this help and we need it now. Mental health issues are growing. Substance abuse is growing. Relapse is growing. We’re- we’re hurting a lot of people and a lot of us are hurting. So I just hope that we can get relief quickly, timely. We’re with you and we’ll fight and we’ll make sure we continue better COVID tracing. But allow us to have some input and help you achieve your goals is what I would ask. And thank you for this time.
Mary Rowe [00:32:35] Thanks Barry, thanks for Barry, John, Oliver and Tony for the restaurant piece. Now we’re going to go to theater and that’s Jacoba, John and Regine. So I’ll hand over to you, I think Jacoba first, right?
Jacoba Knaapen [00:32:47] Yes, that’s right. Good morning. Thank you. 90 percent of Torontonians believe that the arts make Toronto a better place to live. And however, that being said, many sectors of our city have been allowed to cautiously reopen, but the performing arts remain in the dark, and our theaters have remained shuttered since March. So on behalf of the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, TAPPA, I want to say thank you, Mary. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to participate in this summit this morning. And thanks also to Janice Solomon and Mark Garner to giving space to TAPPA at the table. Also, thank you to the Mayor and the City’s commitment to continue funding, support and maintaining funding levels to the Toronto Arts Council. That’s absolutely essential for our sector. We represent one hundred and sixty four professional theater, dance and opera companies in the City of Toronto. For those of you who’ve been to the Dora Awards, you know, it’s from the largest institutions to mid-sized independent non-venue companies. We have been hard hit by the pandemic. And amongst the worst of any in the sector, I don’t have a beautiful slide system like Susie did from tourism, but our numbers are this. Twenty five thousand canceled performances to date. Five hundred million dollars in lost ticket sales. 20 million lost audience members. Two hundred and fourteen thousand lost jobs. That’s almost a quarter of a million, resulting in more than one hundred and forty five million dollars in lost salaries. That is a bigger impact than that of the forestry and mining industries combined. It doesn’t include jobs and income lost through the economic ripple of the performing arts industry on the restaurants that we just heard from and on the hospitality industries that we just heard from. The numbers are staggering. The majority of our 164 professional theater, dance and opera companies have responded to surveys that we have been sending to them. They are the majority not re-opening until September of 21′. So we’re missing an entire season. Who’s gonna be left standing? TAPPA has been responding to the crisis in many different ways. We’ve just concluded a week-long successful I Miss Live Theater TO Campaign, we partnered with a live event community and we lit up red across the nation from coast to coast to celebrate our sector at a time when the 2021 theater, dance and opera season would just be opening. And we’re not. It needs to be said we are engaged in the lights on recovery and reboot, reopening guide with Ryerson School of Creative Industry, also in partnership with the Toronto Arts Foundation, with the support from the City of Toronto, TOLive, and SOCAN. Like the film, like the airline, like the restaurant industries, we are working with leaders and experts in the business, public policy, as well as public health and arts organizations so that we can create a venue re-opening guide. It provides lots of details on protocols on how to open successfully when it’s time, when we’re ready. We’re very eager to be instrumental in the economic recovery of the city. We know that the city needs us and we are grateful for the opportunity this morning. I’m going to turn it over to my colleague, John Karastamatis.
John Karastamatis [00:36:20] Hi, everybody. I’m with Mirvish Productions, the largest arts and culture organization in the country. And we are in a unique position in that we- we are not a subsidized company like many of the others in the theater sector. So we- we get no support at all. We make all our revenue from the box office. And there has been no revenue since March because there’s been no theater. The theaters have been shut. Cash flow is nonexistent. All of us market a perishable service and experience. The lost revenue of the last seven months will never be recovered. And if we have to wait until next September, that will be 18 months. We’re not giving up. By definition, we are creative and resilient. All of us have pivoted with many of our companies actively creating new virtual content or digitizing existing work. This new activity is not lucrative. In fact, it costs more than it can ever bring in. But we’re happy to do it because we believe in our mission of serving the community and because we feel a responsibility to provide meaningful employment to the artists at the heart of the sector. It’s not financially sustainable. Seven months is about as long as any of us can do- can do it for. The business model does not work without- without income from live performances. Regine, over to you.
Regine Cadet [00:37:52] Great. Hi, I’m Regine. So I’m the Managing Director of Theatre Passe Muraille, one of the legacy and anchor theaters in the not-for-profit ecosystem. Resourceful and resilient, Passe Muraille has survived and flourished for half a century. But we’ve never had to face a crisis like this. In this time of social isolation, many thousands of folks in Toronto and millions across the country are turning to various online events in the arts and culture sector to ease anxiety and provide some relief. And yet the very artists and organizations who are delivering this work are amongst the most vulnerable. We are not interested in going back to the status quo. Now is an opportunity to revision a future that is equitable and accessible for everyone. I want to reference the recently issued report, Toronto Office of Rebuild and Recovery, that makes a recommendation to significantly expand the culture sectors, digital infrastructure and adaptation to enable online and virtual delivery of cultural events and experiences. We encourage the city to advocate to the provincial and federal governments for major investments in digital infrastructure as stimulus spending. We also support another important recommendation in the report to streamline and simplify permitting of Do-It-Yourself pop-up spaces to facilitate safe cultural performance spaces and to simplify permitting for alternative use of municipal spaces. Help our artists by removing the red tape that has prevented this from happening. Today, my colleagues and I had been encouraged to think about three actions. We are proposing the following three urgent actions. Number one, CERB is a vital lifeline for us workers. CEWS is allowing our companies to barely remain operational. We are requesting that both of these wage subsidies continue to be extended and that CEWS be grandfathered at seventy five percent for the performing arts, which has been disproportionately hit with restrictions compared to other sectors. In our sector, these two programs are the only thing making it possible for us organizations to keep their staff. And for actors, dancers, choreographers, set light costumes, sound designers, directors, playwrights, stage managers, technicians and other arts workers to remain in the sector. Continue with Jacoba?
John Karastamatis [00:40:37] Actually, I’m next. So during this crisis, the performing arts sector has been largely forgotten by all levels of government. When businesses were allowed to reopen, the performing arts were given little consideration. Even strip clubs were considered before the perform- professional performing arts. Somehow we are viewed as extremely risky. Yet as a sector we are extremely responsible. It is not to our advantage to be otherwise. We value and respect our colleagues and patrons too much. That is why around the world, in nations across Europe and Asia, the performing arts have been allowed to operate with strict safety protocols. These include time entry to the venue, socially distant seating, face coverings on all audience members, on all staff and backstage crew health screenings and vigilant cleaning and respiratory etiquette. In all these many months of the pandemic, there has not been a single known case of contracting the virus at a performing arts venue that has reopened. In London, England right now, they are reopening almost all the theaters with social distancing and masks. All we ask is that we are given the same consideration that other sectors have been given. For instance, up to 30 percent of room capacity is allowed in places of worship, but not in theaters. People are allowed to be packed shoulder to shoulder on airplanes, busses and trains, not in concert halls. For a short time, we are allowed- we were allowed to perform for a maximum of 50 people in an indoor venue. And while that’s great, a theater like the Princess of Wales, which holds two thousand and has tens of thousands of square meters of space, is only allowed 50 patrons. Why is that?
John Karastamatis [00:42:27] Well, we don’t consider ourselves- we do consider ourselves an essential service. Just consider what a world without culture would be like. And we- and we don’t think we engage in risky behavior, sitting quietly and respectfully in a social distanced seats and masked in a theater is not risky. And we are not a minor sector of the economy. You’ve heard the statistics. The performing arts are a vital part of the economy. We just ask to be treated like anyone else.
Jacoba Knaapen [00:42:56] Mary, can I make the third recommendation that we have quickly?
Mary Rowe [00:43:00] Quickly, yup.
Jacoba Knaapen [00:43:00] All right. We feel that it’s imperative that a new program is created. We’ve been asking for this from the very beginning to encourage charitable donations. Plus eighty two percent of the TAPPA members surveyed are anticipating a huge decrease in philanthropic giving. We’ve been writing to the feds about this from the get go. It’s imperative that a new program is created. And the best way to do this is through a government matching private donations, dollar for dollar. We want to ensure that BIPOC and small to mid-sized companies are included and are able to participate. The Department of Canadian Heritage runs a program like this right now. But it’s not for operating funds. It’s for endowments. So we need an operational giving program. This is essential to our recovery. And we’re proposing that the new operational giving program could be administered through the existing channels of the existing Canada Cultural Investment Fund, so we can work together with them. Thank you so much for letting us participate this morning.
Mary Rowe [00:44:01] Thanks, folks, Jacoba, John and Régine, thanks very much. We’re moving at the homestretch here. We’re gonna hear now from the live music sector, Erin, Jesse and Tracy. I think it’s Jesse and Tracy who’re each gonna present, am I right?
Tracy Jenkins [00:44:13] That’s correct.
Jesse Kumagai [00:44:14] That’s correct. I’m going to go first.
Mary Rowe [00:44:16] Yeah, take it away Jesse.
Jesse Kumagai [00:44:17] So thank you very much. It’s- we’re- we’re grateful that this is being convened for- to have this kind of conversation. And I know I’ve had conversations with a number of you and greatly appreciate the concern and support. My name is Jesse Kumagai. I’m the President, CEO of the Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thompson Hall. And I also serve as the board chair for Canadian Live Music Association, which represents over 200 live music organizations from across the country. Together, we represent about three billion dollars worth of economic activity. And in the city of Toronto alone, we add up to about eight hundred and fifty million dollars. I want to make it really clear that in addition to our own businesses that are in focus here, we’re also the primary source of revenue for most of this country’s music artists. And in addition to those artists, we also employ an incredible number of people from the gig economy, people in the production field, all kinds of people who come together to help make our events happen when we’re able to have events. Of course, with the pandemic, we’ve experienced a 100 percent loss of revenues for our core business. And I’ll say that the emergency relief measures that have been put into place so far have been incredibly impactful for us. And that’s the reason that so many of us are still standing. But it’s not enough. To date, we’ve lost 11 venues in Toronto and we know that more are coming. It’s to a degree, a bit of a miracle that as many have survived as long as we have. But when we are looking at the hotel sector’s presentation, that that deck and all the stats and trends that we saw there, looked very much like looking into a mirror for us. We’re facing the exact same issue around liquidity. We’re facing a lot of the same concerns in terms of being able to keep our- our doors open and keep our properties long term. So I’ll say that just in terms of the impact to my company alone. By the time all is said and done, assuming that we’re able to actually be back to normal by fall of 2021, which feels like a big assumption at this point, the impact on my company alone is looking like roughly 10 million dollars. So it’s something that without further assistance, is not something that we’re able to survive. In terms of the sector response, you know, our people have done our very best to adapt and try and recreate as much of the live experience through virtual initiatives and other activities. But if we’re being really honest about it, it’s mainly an effort to try and engage those temporary workers from the artists to the production people, etc., and maintain some sort of relationship with our audiences, because from a revenue perspective, it’s- it’s inconsequential. Nobody is solving the problem through streaming so just want to make that very, very clear as well. Some venues like mine are in a position to be able to accommodate some other event activity, things like film shoots or what not. But even that has been very challenging in this environment. In terms of the recommendations that we want to bring forward, there- we’re sort of looking at it in terms of of immediate issues today, the mid-term, which is going to see us through the balance of the pandemic and then what we’re going to need for recovery afterwards. So short term, again, just like the hotel sector, liquidity is our big issue. People are running out of money. And like I said, it’s been amazing that we’ve survived as long as we have. Surviving 12, 15, 18 months or longer is simply not going to be possible. And we know that it’s incredibly difficult to keep a venue open under normal circumstances, even more difficult to create a new one, especially in a city like Toronto with- with real estate being what it is. So what we need immediately is the short term relief and things like the wage subsidy, etc., carrying on at least at existing levels, ideally higher. We need also, you know, and this won’t work for all, but for some, financing options may be part of the solution. So I think we’re- we’re very interested in having any conversations possible with every level of government about anything that can keep- keep the lights on and keep our people employed. For the balance of the pandemic, we need to be able to do two things. We need to be able to get back to work as quickly as possible, into the greatest capacity possible. But we also are going to need to ensure that there is additional support, assuming that we’re not gonna be able to get back to a hundred percent. So in addition to continuing the emergency relief efforts we’ve talked about, we have common needs across all of these sectors and and some of the solutions that our people believe are going to be key to getting us back to work sooner rather than later. And perhaps diminishing the need for the funding assistance are things like rapid testing and paying attention and following international best practices and studies that are in play right now. I think most of us would benefit from- from rapid advancement in rapid testing solutions. But we’re going to need- we’re not going to be able to drive that on our own and in the U.S. and others- other regions, some sectors have the capacity to drive this. But, you know, from the live music perspective, it’s not something where we can drive the advancement in the technology and the science and the distribution. So we’re looking for just ways of getting back to work and surviving through the next little while. And then longer term, when we all emerge from this, the sector is going to be badly, badly bruised. And so for those companies that are able to survive the coming months, we’re going to be riddled with debt. We are going to be, and, you know, the live music sector is a business that is really all about taking financial risk. We’re going to be very risk averse. And that means that we’re not gonna be living up to our potential for driving that- that economic impact. Our sector can be a huge catalyst for helping to drive the recovery. And I think when you take a look at all of the different sectors that are on this call, you see that we’re all largely interrelated. And if we can all get back up to speed in some way, shape or form with some support coming up the other end of this, that is going to, for the music sector, diminish the amount of risk we’re taking on. Then- then we can see an opportunity to thrive once this- this is all over. I think that’s it for me. And I’ll turn it over to Tracy.
Tracy Jenkins [00:50:56] Great. Thanks again for this opportunity. I’m going to speak today from the perspective of an operator of one of Toronto’s grassroots music venues. We’re now in our 18th year of presenting Latin, Brazilian, as well as soul, jazz and global roots music. And although we’re definitely a comparatively small business, I believe that our economic and cultural impact has been significant. Before COVID hit, we were presenting more than 400 concerts each year, translating to more than 2500 gigs for more than 300 musicians. Most of those local. More than a half a million dollars was being paid annually to these local artists. And about another million being paid to our 35 staff and contract workers. Not just sound engineers, promoters, programmers and marketing people, but also servers, bartenders, kitchen staff, security and cleaners. And over the last few years, we were finally turning a profit after more than a decade of consistently losing money as we built our business. So when COVID brought 100 percent reduction in revenue, we laid off most of our staff and started to calculate how many months we could survive while covering the expense of maintaining our building. And so when we’re trying to get a grip on the devastating impact that COVID has had on the economic and cultural health of the city in terms of live music, we need to take what I’ve described for Lula and multiply it by at least 200. And this is for just Toronto alone. And you can definitely see those numbers reflected in the study that was recently released by the Canadian Live Music Association, which indicates that almost 100 million and GPP has already been lost since March 15th due to the shut down of venues. One positive thing about COVID has been that our industry has been able to come together to share information and resources. The local love- Live Toronto venue group led by owners from the Horseshoe, Garrison, and Phoenix, has done some great work to make sure that grassroots music venues of all sizes survive this pandemic, or as many of them as possible. As Jesse said, the emergency support that we’ve already received has meant that many venues have survived these eight months. But unfortunately, these measures on their own will not be sufficient to give most venues a fighting chance of surviving the next year. And you might think that Lula or the Horseshoe or the- if the Garrison disappear, that other new venues will take their place once the pandemic has been brought under control. But we’ve, as I mentioned earlier, we’ve been losing money from- for more than a decade before we started to break even and Toronto venues have spent decades building infrastructure and relationships. They’re not a switch that can just be turned on and off. I don’t believe that if we all disappear, that we’ll be replaced, either culturally or in terms of the economic impact, that the CLMA’s new study has identified. So as a small venue, I want to underscore the importance of the recommendations that Jesse’s just outlined for our sector. We urgently need financial support from all levels of government in the intermediate term and through help with liquidity and in the middle and long term as we start the road to recovery. To have a chance at survival, we need to be treated in the same way as other comparable sectors in terms of capacity calculations. We’re absolutely committed to keeping our communities safe, but respectfully request to be treated on par with other entertainment industries, events spaces and places of worship where we can follow the same protocols for protecting the public. Obtaining affordable insurance and in fact, insurance of any kind has been very difficult or impossible since COVID. We need a new insurance solution that does not leave live music companies unable to meet the requirements of their mortgage funding or rental agreements. And looking to the longer term, the creation of a Canadian Live Music Fund as well as continued investment in the Ontario Music Funds Live Music Stream will be crucial as we start to rebuild. Without these measures in the immediate, middle and long terms, there’s no doubt in my mind that most of the venues of all sizes in Toronto will not survive the coming two years. So thank you again for the time, creating the space and giving us the opportunity to make these recommendations.
Mary Rowe [00:55:19] Great. OK. Thanks live music, very much. So we’ve got a couple of people who are indicating they want to add in. So if you- if you’re in this panelists group and you want to actually add some things, just put your little hand up, you know, there’s this weird little function where your little hand goes up and I’ll see you. And I know that I have Nick and Deepak. Or Deepak, and then Nick wanted to say something. But before we do that, I’m going to ask that Adam Vaughan, just he is the person who kind of gestated this idea and he works across the country and is very sensitive to how the cores are struggling, coast to coast. So, Adam, I’ll go to you first and then I’ll pick up on a few people, others who want to volley in just put your hand up and I’ll get to you. And just- may I just say not- not- not feasibly Adam, but others. Just if we can try not to reinforce things that have already been said, because you’ve been really, really eloquent, that group of you, can I just say. And I’m seeing liquidity, extension of existing financial supports and the criteria being adjusted so that some- that your workers actually qualify. And then this third question about can we accelerate safe operations to actually get you back functioning in some shape or form? And I know the Mayor will have other summaries, but I just- don’t feel you have to get in and exhort because I think we’re all hearing and we’re all listening very carefully. So, Adam, over to you.
Adam Vaughan MP [00:56:30] Well, thanks very much. And I just want to acknowledge my my colleagues, Rachel Bendayan, who’s- who’s the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministering of Small Business, as well as in particular, Julie Dabrusin, who’s the Parliamentary Secretary to- to Minister Steven Guilbeault, who’s the Minister of Heritage, as well as Julie Dzerowicz, whose Downtown riding, it wraps around a lot of the- the venues that have been listed as a concern. I know most you think of me as a- as a former journalist who’s a politician, but I also ran a restaurant for two and a half years on- on Harbord Street and opened a bar for an investor there. And so I understand exactly how perilous and how fragile the sector is at the best of times. And I, in talking to friends who are still in the sector, understand exactly the anxiety and the fear, quite frankly, that- that are mixed into so many business models today. We’re listening. We don’t have as much federal power in this area. Though we do have obviously the power of investment and subsidy. But we are- we are constantly evolving our approach. And I will say this, that the reason this issue became so profound to us is that we know that our downtown neighborhoods in particular don’t exist without the high streets, the business streets that surround them, the services and the amenities you get there. And anybody who’s worked on a main street and worked in a- in a business knows that the cultural sector drives the rest of the retail. It gives you a 24 hour business cycle on the main street. It’s what sustains and creates new customers. One of the first things I had to do when taking office as a City Councilor was rescue Theatre Passe Muraille from a capital collapse. But the reason we did it was because every bar and restaurant, the neighborhood said they’d draw the customers to our doorstep. If we lose the hospitality sector, we lose our high streets. And if we lose our high streets, we lose- lose our downtown neighborhoods. And that’s- that is the sad reality of the challenge we’re facing right now. And so our government’s response to the hospitality sector and the way it is complex as an ecosystem is fundamental to- to- to making sure we stage a recovery. And clearly, we are not in a position to have a strong hospitality sector right now, whether it’s arts, bars, restaurants, hotels, convention centers, you name it. We have got to do better. And that’s why we’ve pulled together the parliamentary secretaries who feed straight into the ministerial thinking and policy design. And we want to hear your ideas so we can come back to you with a plan of action.
Mary Rowe [00:58:58] Thanks, Adam. OK. So I’m going to pick up on this call list, and we’re going to go to Deepak, then Nick and then Rachel. Go ahead, Deepak.
Deepak Ruparell [00:59:05] Mary, thank you very much. Mr. Mayor. Thank you. And Adam, thank you. Two, three points out. There’s no doubt we need relief immediately. And from a- from a city point of view, we could look at property taxes and utilities. But more importantly, we need a recovery program. Why don’t we focus on a recovery program whereby we have Ontario to spend Christmas weekend in Toronto and if you spend a thousand dollars, you get three dollar tax recovery or tax rebate from the government. A similar program was launched in Atlantic Canada and Quebec and going very successful. So that will encourage people to spend money in our city. Give Christmas or any other promotion and get instant tax credit. That would be a good recovery program I think we should look at. And more importantly, looking at long term, the pandemic is clearly shown that we lack infrastructure in the city of Toronto. It’d be nice to focus on maybe a long term project like the Rail Deck Park, the Waterfront reDevelopment park, because clearly people in the condominiums in downtown Toronto have nowhere to go. I think we lack infrastructure dramatically. And I encourage the people on- our politicians on this line to the provincial government and the federal government to- to support us in- in infrastructure for the Rail Deck, Waterfront Development Park. These will all create jobs long term but we’ll leave Toronto a better city 50 years from today. Thank you.
Mary Rowe [01:00:28] Thanks, Deepak. Can I just pass to the mayor before we go to Nick and Rachel? Go ahead. Mr. Mayor. Are you there? You’re muted, sorry.
Mayor John Tory [01:00:41] Ah yes, that’s a rare and welcome development for some. Is it best that I should sort of listen to everybody that has to speak, cause I was going to sort of try to sum up what I heard, just as a so far stopping off point, and I’m happy to speak now, or after a couple others that you have waiting to be heard.
Mary Rowe [01:01:12] OK. So Nick and then Rachel, please.
Nick Di Donato [01:01:15] Yes, hi. Nick Di Donato here. I- I wear multiple hats, obviously running many restaurants in the city, tourist attractions such as Casa Loma. And I’ve been in the live music industry for many, many years, founding the Phoenix Concert Theatre. One- one which sector I need to bring to light currently, which is almost completely ignored as the event venue sector and banquet halls. And I’m working with a group of almost 100 individuals who own banquet halls around the city and north of the city. And unfortunately, those have been impacted incredibly, more so than any of the other sectors I’m involved with because they are virtually shut down. A case in point is the Liberty Grand, as an example, has been shut down since March. We’ve chosen to do that because we understand our industry is very different than most other city event space and that most people come together and congregate and celebrate and dance. And so having that kind of event going on during this period is very challenging and very difficult. So we have virtually been closed and wanted to be closed because it’s the right thing to do. I don’t believe these banquet halls can really open successfully up until there are- there is some kind of vaccine or- or something of that sort, because opening at the 10 capacity, which is currently what’s going on today or the 50 person capacity. And you can imagine the Liberty Grand is a slice for five thousand people. And we’ve only been able to do 50 people max, over the past six months. And we believe it’s the right thing to do, to close. It’s a health and safety issue, which is paramount, but we need to support many of the things addressed here, are the things that the banquet halls will need. One thing that’s- that’s very important to me at this point is the new programs that they’re identifying- identify a top-up for sectors that have been closed. I want to ensure that if a sector such as the event venue sector is identified to be able to open for 10 people, that’s virtually closed as opposed to being eliminated from that or not eligible from that and from that top-up subsidy, I believe those venues, even though they’re hosting 50 people in every capacity, five thousand should be eligible for the top-up. Currently, the way the warning is out there right now, I believe we may be missed out or that sector may be missed out because they haven’t been shut down, but they have been severely limited to a point where they might as well be shut down. So I just wanted to add the event venue sector to the- to the conversation, because it has been missed out.
Mary Rowe [01:03:50] Thanks, Nick. At some point, it’d be interesting if people actually- I hear people using the 30 percent number and I’m interested the live entertainment gang started to use that number. If someone can actually comment, maybe in the chat, whether someone’s done the math on this, this 30%, because what Nick was just suggesting is these 50 people numbers aren’t adequate, is 30 percent. OK. We’re going to go to Rachel, Ben, then the two Julie D’s, both of whom are D, Julie Dabrusin and then Julie Dzerowicz. It’s first to you, Rachel, go ahead.
Rachel Bendayan MP [01:04:15] Thanks very much, Mary. And thank you, especially to my colleague Adam Vaughan, for his leadership with this group. And of course, I’m sure you’ll hear from- from Julie, who, as Adam mentioned, is the Parliamentary Secretary for Heritage. But from my point of view, working with Minister Mary Ng as a Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business, all of these comments and this entire discussion has been extremely helpful. And I just wanted to raise a few points. Firstly, Susie, I take your comment with respect to BCAP very seriously. I have already texted the Minister’s office and have a briefing tomorrow in which I will relay these comments. And I would be happy offline for us to follow up on BCAP. I believe that the wage subsidy was something that was raised both by the hotel industry but also by others. I think that this was something that was mentioned in particular by the theater industry. So it has dropped to a 65 percent subsidy. I understand that that is a 10 percent difference from what you were previously used to. We will look into this and see if we can- if we can pump it up further. It is, of course, with the- with the hope that we would be coming out of the second wave quite quickly and that the si- sixty five percent wage subsidy would carry us through to the summer and encourage, you know, our- our small businesses to- to maintain their revenue levels. But I hear you particularly for those hardest hit, looking at the CEWS as something that I will certainly bring back to Minister Freeland. You know, Barry, you mentioned that you were not able to access anything other than the wage subsidy and that I hope we have fixed with the announcement of two weeks ago now, the rent subsidy will be going directly to small business owners and not through landlords. And so I hope you will be able to take advantage of this rent subsidy because it is critical. And as you’ll see, it does have a top-up for those hardest hit embedded in it. And so it is a very significant subsidy and help, I hope, to your business and to other restaurants. Around fixed costs, which was something that was mentioned across the board at the CEBA, which was the emergency forty thousand dollar loan program interest-free, which included a grant within it, has been expanded, as you know, expanded to more businesses, but also increased. I certainly sense that the hotel industry is looking at me and saying that they need more than 60 thousand dollars in help for fixed costs. But I think for our small businesses, for our restaurant owners, for our bars, for our small theaters, you know, the additional money under CEBA will come as welcome relief. The 20 thousand dollar additional funding under CEBA will include up to ten thousand dollar grant. And so we’re also trying to respond to the concerns and the anxiety around taking on additional debt. Nick, the comment that you just made now a very- very timely, not only is it an issue for our event venues that might be open under minimal capacity, but I hear the same from restaurants, certainly the restaurants here in Montreal are telling me that they’re only allowed to have takeout. Does that mean that they’re considered open, when effectively they’re not able to- to- to serve a client base that would be sufficient in order to cover their costs? I have raised that- that issue in the context of restaurants. And I’ll go back and add, event venues to- to say that there are numerous industries that are asking this question and that we need to come up with a definition of what it means to be closed, that- that takes that into consideration. So, again, Mary, thank you for for doing this. And of course, Mayor Tory for the invitation. And I found this discussion extremely helpful and extremely useful.
Mary Rowe [01:08:21] Thanks, Rachel, and of course, we’re ho- like we should probably do it in Montreal, I see that Montreal made an appeal to the province and the federal government for support directly to its downtowns. We’re familiar with that. So I appreciate your comments. The other thing is in the chat, I’m noticing people are trying to remind us that bars and restaurants are not the same thing. So that- we need their- and I heard it in many of your talks that you’re- you’re looking for more targeted interventions because we know that one size doesn’t at all. And in particular, I think in terms of the safe reopening and safe operations, I think we’re hearing and I think this is a challenge for the feds, where local government’s very good, is how do you actually target specific interventions that suit particular venues, particular kinds of venues, particular neighborhoods as well. All right. We’re going to go to Ben, then Julie D1, Julie D2 and then John. Go, take it away, Ben.
Ben Geddes [01:09:06] Hi. Thanks, everybody. My name is Ben Geddes. I own Fast Fresh Foods, which is a lunchtime takeout chain in downtown Toronto. So a little bit different from what’s been discussed here. But like many others here on this call, I just really want to reinforce what’s happening with the downtown area. I’m in the PATH system and most of my stores are still closed. So we’re talking about people who are either still closed or down ninety five, 90 percent. So it’s- it’s really dramatic. And the main point I wanted to make was tied into the federal program so thank you, Rachel, for just discussing some of that. But very much like Susie showed in her initial presentation, I think we need some system that really targets specifically those that are truly the hardest hit. Now, whether that’s a category and I should clarify, I’m speaking specifically to CEWS and to the still to be developed, but there’s some talk about how CERS program is going to be laid out. I think whether it’s a scaled approach for the people with the sales being reflecting how much subsidy you get or another category, we have the top-up categories in CEWS based on how much you’re down. I think another category for those that are down 85 or 90 or 100 percent needs to be strongly considered because as we all know, this pandemic has and effected everybody equally. And when you’re down a 100 percent or 90 percent, it’s great, sixty five percent is wonderful and frankly, I think these government programs are really what’s keeping us all alive. But when you are down 100 percent, 35 percent, to your landlords and to your staff, it just doesn’t cut it. It’s simply not enough. And so I would strongly recommend that there being additional consideration being given to those who are down at the most dramatic amounts as revenue- groups saying that people were down 30 percent. So that would be my main point. And one other- sorry, one final point in regards to that. I know you guys are having a hell of a time trying to figure out things as we are as well. But we need a longer landscape in terms of knowing how long- what- what the details are of these programs. Right now, we’re being told until December. The details, I know it’s been extended till June, but the details of what we know are until December. We don’t know what the rates are for the period between December and June. It would be very, very helpful for business owners to know a longer period of time for us to build to make decisions based on our staffing and other considerations. So those would be my points that I would chip in there. And thank you for the most everybody for this, has been very helpful.
Mary Rowe [01:11:44] Thanks, Ben. And we always know that businesses want certainty. Certainty, certainty, and the government’s trying to trying. But it’s hard in the pandemic it appear, doesn’t it, to give anybody certainty on much about stuff. Hear your points, Ben. Thank you. All right, Julie Dabrusin. Then Dzerowicz. Then John. Then Edwin. And then Councillor Bradford. Go ahead, Julie Dabrusin.
Julie Dabrusin MP [01:11:59] Thank you so much. And you know, as a former Montrealer, but very proud Torontonian, so happy that this is my city, I really see the importance of making sure that our hospitality industry remains strong and our arts industry, because that is what makes our city such an amazing place to live and to visit. And I’m really happy that we’ve had a chance to have Rachel, who gets to work on small business side. And so the larger, say broader programs, and then also to be able to have me here, to be able to hear exactly what you were mentioning, which is how do we target, how do we target to- to the directly impacted industries? And we’ve heard from live performance, live music and how to do that. First wave was the five hundred million that came through as emergency funding for the arts. And there was a live music fund that was a part of that, which was a difference from the way things have operated in the past, in the sense that it went to venues, it went to promoters, not the usual, not the usual recipients from heritage funding. And that was a good thing to see as to how- how can we start adapting our programs. And it’s a- I kind of consider it like exercising a muscle. That muscle has been exercised, and that’s something where we need to keep building on it. And certainly on the broader programs like what you mentioned with the wage subsidy. I’ll be talking with Rachel after this a little bit about how we can work together on that, but also on how can we target to specifically support our live performance industries? Because- because that’s- that’s clearly something that we need to address. I want to thank everybody because I’ve actually had a chance to talk with many of you over the past few months. And your feedback’s been essential. Anytime that you can give us really tangible ideas as to how we can respond. It really does help us. And we are working on it. We’re working- we did a series of roundtables from the Heritage Minister’s office directly on recovery. We’re working on that right now. So any specific suggestions that you have, please keep on feeding them in because we’re working on it. Mayor Tory, always really a pleasure to be working with you and to work with Councillor Bradford as well at the City. I’m really excited to see how we can keep working together to make sure that we have really strong, vibrant downtown going forward. Thank you.
Mary Rowe [01:14:35] Thanks, Julie. So we’re in the homestretch here, folks. I need the remaining people on this call just to be really brief. OK, and just get to the point on what you need dimensioned. So- so we’re going to just take for granted that everybody’s appreciating each other and don’t take ten seconds saying that. Let’s go to as much as Julie, I appreciate your local, my MP and I know what a gracious person you are, but Julie Dzerowicz, John, Edwin and Brad each to you quickly for a minute. Then, we’re going to go to the Mayor for a bit of a summary. Go ahead, Julie Dzerowicz.
Julie Dzerowicz MP [01:15:01] OK. Thank you. Thank you, Mayor Tory, Adam and you, Mary Rowe, for your great leadership and putting this together. And thanks for everybody for participating. In Davenport, I think everybody knows, I have a huge arts and culture sector. So hello, Tracy Jenkins. You know, Lula Lounge very much is the heart and soul of- one of the heart and souls of our community. I just want to mention, I heard very clearly today about it’s not only about immediate additional short term support, but it’s also about the long term viability of the sectors. And I think that both of those are equally important. I- I also said on the Finance Committee, what I would love to know is and this is via chat, please, before we end off today, if you could let me know if you’ve had direct conversations with our finance department, if you could let me know. So this is heads of our associations, I’d really like to know. We held emergency COVID sessions of the last few months. I only remember hearing from the hotel sector, the restaurant industry and only from one live venue sector. So I’m worried about making sure that even- there’s a number of different branches you have to go in within government. Finance is definitely one of them. And I would love to know via chat who’s been in direct contact with our finance. So that’s one. Two, mayor- Mayor Tory, I know that you could be making some remarks. I also would love to know about in terms of closedowns, how do we use the data that we have, the health data that we have that we’re collecting as people are doing their tests to actually determine where we’re closing down, I think that’s- that’s important information for all of us to know. And I’ve heard very loud and clear from everyone today that we have to do better around not only the rapid tests, but just more testing facilities and the contact tracing. So I just want people to know that- that’s come across. And that’s it for me. Thanks so much.
Mary Rowe [01:16:46] Thanks, Julie. Over to you now, John K., then Edwin and Brad. Go ahead.
John Karastamatis [01:16:52] Hi there. People have been asking, can the lot live theater or live performance operate at a 30 percent capacity? Yes, it can happen. You will have different shows on stage than you would under one hundred percent. But it can happen. Right now, the most important thing to do is to put some life in the theater, even if that life is small, because out of- out of sight, out of mind. We worry that we will never come back, that everybody will be- the audience will be gone. So please let us open with safe protocols.
Mary Rowe [01:17:32] Thanks, John. Edwin?
Edwin Frizzell [01:17:34] Hi, good morning, everyone. My name’s Edwin Frizzell. I’m the General Manager of the Fairmont Royal York. I’m also the chairman of the board of the Hotel Association here in Toronto. I really just want to express a sense of urgency around our situation with the rollback that we just saw with our modified stage two. We know that closures are very likely. The industry was hanging on by a thread before the closure currently. And as we look ahead into the first quarter, and I represent core hotels right from Ottawa out to Calgary, we know that we have ownerships that are looking at closure well into next year, based on our current situation. So I just want to really reiterate that sense of urgency. The other thing I think it’s really important is that we- we need to continue to have support for our staff. I have over twelve hundred staff here at the Fairmont Royal York and today I have 50 actively working. That is just not- that thousand- over a thousand people that I have sitting at home. I need to spend the rest of my day on a mental health seminar with all of them trying to hold their lives together. And I think looking at things like extensions to the infectious disease leave is incredibly important because the wage subsidy is great for our staff who are actively working. For those folks at home, we are on the precipice of being forced by our current employment standards to have to start to permanently separate our employment relationship with them. And I think that would be a tremendous shame. So I think we need to actively look at what that longer horizon looks like, because the reality is, this is not a June recovery. This is well into a 2022, 2023 situation. And unfortunately, we need clarity on what that runway looks like in order to plan and balance what kind of support and resources we’re going to need to get there. And then finally, I really do think that the hotel sector does need to have access to some of the closed business resources that have been made available because many of us chose not to close, which excludes us from the ability to do that, but lost millions of dollars by staying available to the community, supporting our health care workers, supporting the community in terms of getting the destination back up and running. That really is my last piece. We are going to need access to funds to be able to support demand generators like longer term citywide business. Citywides well into 2021 and 2022 are now actively looking to cancel their programming for Toronto. And it- great if we can actually hold on to get there to mid next year. If there’s no business when we get there, we’ll just be facing this closure scenario again. So really just a sense of urgency and more support required. Thank you.
Mary Rowe [01:19:43] Thanks, Edwin. Both Susie and Jacoba wanted to just say something very quickly. So, Susie, for you, then Jacoba, then I’m going to you, Brad. Go ahead, Susie.
Susie Grynol [01:19:52] Yes, thank you. I just- I mean, obviously, there’s a number of different subsectors on the phone right now. And I just wanted to make one final point. If the government’s programs were tailored based on revenue, you don’t actually have to pick a winner or a loser and I think that would be fair for anyone. If- if a hotel is doing well or a theater’s doing well, then- then maybe they don’t get access to the program. But if you equate- but if you base it on revenue and you tailor the programs that are coming out and ensured that a greater portion of those funds go to the hardest hit, you don’t have to pick different subsectors. You can- you can do it and- but that’s not what we’re seeing right now in the- in the wage subsidy program. As an example, people with five and 10 percent revenue loss are still getting coverage. That’s not the same thing as someone in the 80 or 100 percent revenue loss category. So, you know, our key recommendation for all these programs that are coming up, whether it’s a rent relief program or whether it’s the the CEWS program, is that the tailored piece not be tailored to one sector versus another, but tailored to revenue. And then that- that becomes, I think, a more defensible position for the government as well.
Mary Rowe [01:20:55] Obviously, the other tailoring that you emphasized in your presentation, as hard as it is, is the communities that are and those are often communities of color and particular worker groups that are most dramatically hit. So the extent to which those can be targeted. OK. Jacoba, your quick point and then I’m coming to you, Councillor Bradford. Go ahead, Jacoba.
Jacoba Knaapen [01:21:11] Thank you. I just wanted to make a point that there is a need for clarity between- I know that this is focused federally, Adam, but there is a need for clarity from the channel of communication from the feds over to the province and then coming down to the city. Last week, we were all grappling with Minister MacLeod’s new regulations that came as part of the partial rollback to stage two and the City of Toronto, worked really hard with the arts and culture industry to get clarity on that, and we were able to turn it around. Thanks very much to the hard work of many folks. But the lack of clarity caused undue stress and I would say really, really rippled in a negative way. We need consistency of regulations across the board. We are absolutely desperate for regulatory parity that we do not see. And the City is doing everything it can. And the lack of clarity from the province is- is a- is a challenge and is a waste of time for all of us who then spend three days writing letters and pivoting in mass advocacy efforts. And it worked. It worked. But boy, oh, boy, what a- what a tremendous amount of stress that was. The other thing around the Ontario Arts Council, I just want to mention that the Standing Committee of Economic Affairs and Finance made a recommendation that there should be an increase to the Ontario Arts Council. And I know that Minister MacLeod isn’t on the call today, but I just want to reiterate that we really, really need support for funding to the Ontario Arts Council for our sector.
Mary Rowe [01:22:56] Thanks, Jacoba. Again, comments about tailoring but making sure that they’re clear. So this is a great challenge. Adam said in the chat that a lot of this is being done on the fly. It gets announced and then it gets tweaked and worked at and worked at and worked at. So your feedback is crucial. OK, Councillor Bradford. And then to the Mayor for a wrap up. Go ahead, Councillor.
Councillor Brad Bradford [01:23:14] I’ll be very brief. Many of us have spoken over the course of the past eight months. It’s been very helpful. You know that those conversations directly feed into the feedback loop on these programs and supports. This, again, furthers that effort. I just want to highlight for folks that last week, the Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild dropped their reports, which accounts for much of this feedback. It is a starting off point for us on the journey going forward. You know, I suspect the mayor and folks will have motions coming to executive this week and council at the end of the month. This sector, these sectors are so foundational to our neighborhoods, to our city, and we need to do everything that we can. On the city’s end, it obviously looks different than the- the supports of the province and the feds. But we are all working together. My- my elected official colleagues on this call, we text. We have those very open lines of communication, particularly with the folks you see here on the line here today. So get in touch. Continue to provide that feedback. It’s been very helpful and we will continue to do it going forward. Thanks very much, Mary.
Mary Rowe [01:24:20] Thanks, Brad. OK, Mr. Mayor, over to you.
Mayor John Tory [01:24:23] OK, well. Well, Mary, thank you. And I can’t possibly summarize in the time we have. But I’ll try to just give you some headings. And I sort of look at it this way. I think what Adam said is very wise. This is something where all of us are doing things on the fly, not to suggest we’re doing them carelessly, but we’re all learning each day about both the sort of the virus itself, but also about the impacts of it. And I look at it that we sort of had three stages to this. I think we’re maybe kind of over the first stage which was just like the emergency where if you arrive there, you’ve got some dire illness going on. The second stage is you’re in ICU, which is I think is where we are now. We’re all in ICU in one way or another, all the industries and people represented on the call. And then you move to the recovery. Do you go to rehab and then you eventually go home and home is back to sort of business as usual, which has been acknowledged here today. What will take obviously some time, and there’s varying opinions on that. What I heard today was- Mary’s made mention of this a couple of times, we have to look at some customized answers. I mean, I think part of the problem in the emergency phase was that there were emergency programs put in place and they saved us from a far worse fate, I think in many respects. But they were not necessarily addressing the different needs of these different sectors, even the ones just represented on this call today. And so I’ve taken notes. I won’t repeat the things that are said. But, you know, we started with the hotels saying they need some tax parity, for example, one of the many things. You know, we had others go on to talk about different things they needed. So that’s number one, is I think we have to organize. We, meaning perhaps Mary in my own office and some of the BIAs, a bit of a- of a chart or something that sort of says, alright, here are the customized asks people have. The second things are things of general application. As Mary acknowledged earlier. I mean, liquidity, obviously a huge issue. And I think that as we’re doing in areas like housing and so on, there have to be some financial resources that are made available with the express purpose. I look at it as an investment in saving businesses and jobs to have something that is a kind of a revolving loan fund or something, that’s going to allow for liquidity to be addressed in the- in the shorter term. And I think that includes, you know, a number of things for- for- for the institutions as opposed to just the people, if I can call it that. So it’s about the hotel, because we have programs in place to some extent for the people. I think the third thing and I’m going quickly here because I just, we have limited time. The third point I heard was what I call, I called relativity and consistency, and that is- points that go all the way from the- the discrepancy between places of worship being allowed to have a certain number of people in their halls of worship each week, relative to what’s going on with live performance venues or restaurants or whatever. And that we have to come out with some things that make sense, from the standpoint of sense to the business people involved and sense even to the public, who will not- they- they ask me questions all the time. Why is it this is open and that’s not? So I think relativity and consistency. And again, as we organize all this and I think we have to point out the examples, one by one. Of the inconsistencies and the lack of relativity between different numbers, that applies as well, by the way, in restaurants, to the kind of- if you have 10 people allowed in your venue, are you really open? I would think most people would say no. Or if your patio is open, I gather the feds are taking the position now that if your patio is open, you’re not closed and therefore not eligible for the bonus payment you get for being closed because of a public autho- Well, on a day like yesterday or the day before yesterday, if your patios open and it’s raining and it’s cold, you’re closed. And, you know, like totally closed because the indoors closed by public health order. So I think we’ve got to sort some of those things out. Fourthly, and I’ve just got two more right. Fourthly, what I call here coming out plans and actions. And so that’s what’s referred to quite specifically, again, across the different sectors represented. So things like say, well, shall we be somehow mandating or otherwise making more universally applicable that app that sort of says that’s a way of helping to determine, you know, right when people come to the door of the restaurant as opposed to having them closed. A ways to keep them open safely. Are there other things? The restaurant industry said to me on Friday, they need to know what more they can do beyond whether it’s the plexiglass or tables being further apart or, you know, this, that or the other thing that can basically say that when they reopen, whether that’s at the end of the 28 days or any other time, that it’s not going to happen again. There’s no guarantee of that. But you can maximize the chance of that kind of thing not happening. Same with performing arts venues. When they reopen, you don’t want to have them closed again three weeks later. And that’s very much applicable to the capacity issues across the board. And then finally, the one thing that we shouldn’t ignore in all of this, because those are all kind of ICU measures or measures that sort of help you when you’re on your way- on your way to rehab. But we need some long term measures. And, you know, the comments that Jesse made, for example, about saying, well, look, it’s all fine and good to kind of stabilize us. But, you know, we then got to look at how we sort of emerge out of this in any way that is other than a shell of our former selves. I was very taken as well by the fact that, and I think Adam and others made reference to it that, you know, well, we have to be careful to make sure we’re looking at cities as a whole, Montreal, Toronto and any other city represented. It is the downtowns that we were- and main streets, because there’s sometimes they’re much the same. We have to focus on here because it is the vibrancy and so on that was mentioned by a number that leads to the businesses wanting to be there, may be lone people wanting to live there, which is one of the reasons why our cities are healthy downtown, compared to others that we could look at elsewhere. So the final point I would make, I think, is this. And I’m going to ask for Mary’s help in this and everybody else involved in putting this together. I think what we have to do is we have to take all the input we’ve received today and organize it all kind of along the lines I suggested, or some other basis that sort of has it organized versus general application versus customized versus short term versus long term, including tweaks to existing programs, which are undoubtedly necessary. I think the government knows that. And they, by the way, have been incredibly responsive to this. The federal government has. I think then we have to get the two other- three levels of government to the table. And in some way or other, I’m not sure who comes. But I think there have to be people who come and we can go through that list on behalf of a consolidated sector of people who are involved in downtowns and main streets, because all of this is tied together. There’s none of it that’s you know, it’s not performing arts are off over here and restaurants are up over there. If the performing arts get going again, the restaurants will have more customers and that’ll increase, create more jobs and that’ll create more vibrancy around the street and blah-blah-blah. More people will stay in hotels, et cetera. So I think we have to get an opportunity in front of some of the very senior people. And I’m talking here, Sir Rod Phillips and Chrystia Freeland maybe, and myself and whoever, and sit and say, look, this is the list. And it’s not just because it’s this meeting, but this is a good start on a list of customized things of general application and long term things we need to do and tweaks we need now and put that forward as one voice saying, look, we are actually- we can’t claim to speak on behalf of everybody, but we can sort of say what we heard. So I think that is a crucial step that has to happen in a week, like not in a month or a year. It has to happen in a week. And I think it’s easy to pull the stuff together relatively because we’ve heard what we heard and then we just have to get the right meeting. And I think if they’re told it’s representing these sectors and all the leaders that appeared today, people will take that meeting. And I think it’s a very good opportunity to put forward these points. So- so that’s- that’s- that’s the best way I can summarize it. And just maybe the final final commentary to say I understand. I’ve understood before today. I mean, I talk to people. I’m doing it all the time. I’m out talking to people in the community to individual restauranteurs and hoteliers and so forth. I understand the dire straits and it’s very bad for our city and for every other city. And so we’re seized of the need to act. But we just have to sort of know what are the main points. And I think today helped a lot with that, in terms of hearing from the real people involved as to some of the key points that could be done today, you know, kind of tomorrow and then, you know, two months from tomorrow looking further ahead.
Mary Rowe [01:31:42] Thanks, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor John Tory [01:31:44] And thank you to everybody for this.
Mary Rowe [01:31:45] Thanks everybody, for tuning in. So we are going to continue to follow up. Do not lose touch with us. You all have an e-mail for CUI so you can feed further comments in. We’ll work on this action plan. Get the summary ready and circle back with everybody. And as the mayor suggests, sounds like an important meeting needs to happen. So just be appreciative- we are very appreciative of how you can form the tangible steps that need to be taken to assist and support these four sectors that are so critical to the health and vibrancy that makes Toronto and makes other cities what these cities are. So thanks, everybody, for joining us. And we appreciate it.
Mayor John Tory [01:32:16] And I’m committing you, Mary, to the follow up meeting by the way. I’m committing you and me to that. And we’re gonna do that like Zoom so we can report back to these very same people.
Mary Rowe [01:32:23] You got it. We’ll make it happen. Very good. And thanks to the BIAs for getting us going and to Adam for kickstarting it. Thanks, everyone.
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From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://canurb.org/citytalk
10:02:45 From Canadian Urban Institute : Welcome! Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
10:09:01 From Canadian Urban Institute :
10:46:49 From Heather Morand Clark : If theatres have to operate with a 50-person maximum audience, or even at 30% capacity, how can that be profitable? Ticket sales wouldn’t cover artist fees and other costs
10:49:33 From Shelby Cook : Yes! Other countries have opened up performances. There are thousands of musicians and music students in the GTA who really are hurting right now. There are not enough opportunities for everyone during this time. People do not want to just tune into zoom concerts. Why are there maskless protests but not masked concerts? It is not just professional musicians, but the amateurs, too.
11:06:36 From Matt Peacock to All panelists : Hi there, wondering if there is the possibility of a more defined separation of the restaurant sector from bars/clubs as it come to shutdowns. Two completely different beasts
11:06:42 From George Bozikis : When speaking about Toronto, it’s important to stress the core of Toronto. The suburbs are fairing much better. People have been become brainwashed that it’s more dangerous in the downtown core.
11:07:39 From Aleem Kanji : All the government subsidies in the world won’t matter if businesses aren’t able to maintain insurance which is legally required to open. The Province needs to act and prohibit insurance denials and price gouging. More info here: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-ontario-restaurants-bars-face-soaring-insurance-costs/
11:14:34 From Jacoba Knaapen : Responding to Heather’s question regarding limited capacities for theatres. It is not a lucrative ratio for our theatres and the financial formula doesn’t work for the vast majority of the venues.
11:15:27 From Shaun Bowring : the CEBA 20k expansion although welcome falls extremely short of what is required for live music venues. As a sector we thought that number was going to be 40k per quarter… in the 200k range for the program.
11:19:05 From Adam Vaughan to All panelists : The two most complex and daunting realities we face in COVID programme design are having no ability to accurately predict the timetable or the depth of the pandemic. As a result programmes are launched in serial form to allow us to reform and fine tune in real time. Todays meeting is critical to this process. thanks for the strong advocacy and the detailed factual impacts. We have heard the anecdotal concerns. Today’s information is what will help us advocate for you. Thank you.
11:20:35 From Heather Morand Clark : There is a real worry in the arts sector that people will become complacent, and less willing to go out to live events even when they become available after being at home, watching on screens month after month
11:21:09 From Frederic DIMANCHE : Good point by John K. I talked last week with event professionals in New Orleans, Austin and Las Vegas who made the same point: We can work with capacity (30% or else), but the shows will be indeed different. New Orleans is already doing more intimate music events.
11:23:03 From Brad Lepp : Tailored programs to revenue yes, but also needs to be very simple and clear and consistent. A lot of small businesses can’t make sense of all the nuances of regulations.
11:24:00 From Susie Grynol to Brad Lepp and all panelists : Agreed.
11:25:17 From Shelby Cook to All panelists : Yes! Can people arrive a little early at a performance and get a rapid test before they enter the venue, maybe pay a small extra fee, voluntarily, maybe? ***** I hope governments can do whatever Jesse Kumagai and John Karastamatis are saying to do!
11:28:16 From Mary W Rowe : stay in touch with us on these issues please- very important to sustain continuous adjustments and timely action
11:29:58 From George Bozikis : Whatever assistance comes our way, it must come immediately.
11:31:05 From Barry Taylor to Brad Lepp and all panelists : greater than 85-90% revenue loss is effectively closed
11:32:27 From Tony Elenis to All panelists : these suggestions need to be added into an action format and reviewed with group in a similar meeting
11:33:12 From Canadian Urban Institute : Contact us at email@example.com