Restaurant owners and bar owners discouraged by the closure of their establishments in October urge the Legault government to send them “emergency aid” promised seven weeks ago.
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“I am tired, frustrated … We have the impression that the government is lying to us. We are promised help that we are not given, ”says Mathieu Ménard, owner of the Blind Pig brewery and the Mineral bar in Montreal.
“I got into debt again for five years,” adds the entrepreneur who was just starting to be “on the positive”.
1is October, the Minister of the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, launched a lifeline to restaurants, bars and microbreweries in the red zone: the assistance program for businesses in regions on maximum alert (AERAM).
Quebec undertook to reimburse 80% of fixed costs such as rent, taxes and insurance up to a maximum of $ 15,000.
“It will allow these people to get through the next 28 days,” Prime Minister François Legault said at the time.
However, help is still pending.
“There is a difference between being told that you are going to get help and receiving help,” laments Mr. Ménard.
“Industry is like a little guy who got hurt in the woods. Papa Legault told him: “stay there, I’ll come back and get you”. But once night fell, he never came back and the little guy was eaten by the wolves, ”he says.
Entrepreneurs thus denounce “false promises”.
“We should also see the color of the money. It looks more like an election promise, ”said Mario Brossoit, co-owner of L’Express, in Montreal.
“Everyone is badly taken. The government is not serious. It will take months before we get the promised help, ”adds the president of the Union of bar owners, Peter Sergakis.
At a press conference on Thursday, Mr. Legault indicated that “Pierre Fitzgibbon is very aware that there are delays”.
The next day, the minister encouraged entrepreneurs to fill out the forms.
“I would tell them to be tolerant. There was some imperfection in the beginning. […] I also ask to be patient, but the money is there. With my colleague Mr. [Eric] Girard [ministre des Finances], we don’t want to slip away, ”Mr. Fitzgibbon told TVA Nouvelles.
“Small delays? We filled that out [la demande] October 6 and nothing has returned yet ”, fulminates Philippe Desrosiers, owner of Inox, in Quebec.
Of the 5,300 members of the Association restauration Québec (ARQ), “no one has yet received a check,” confirms the organization’s vice-president of public and government affairs, François Meunier. It is unacceptable. “
Since the beginning of October, there have been more than 2000 requests for AERAM.
“Of this number, nearly 600 files have already been accepted or are in the process of being so,” said the Ministry of the Economy to Journal.
In addition to the help that is slow to arrive, restaurant owners and bar owners denounce the complexity of the requests, which are managed by the regions.
In the metropolis, for example, the PME Montréal network is responsible for granting loans.
“There are a lot of intermediaries. It looks like the help is being made to dissuade people from continuing the process, ”explains Jean-Philippe Lessard, co-owner of the Buvette Scott and the Sardines restaurant in Quebec.
The ARQ believes that the process should have been centralized.
“Each MRC has its own rules. It complicates the process, ”summarizes Mr. Meunier.
“It cost me $ 5,000 or $ 6,000 in accounting fees just to submit my request. You have to pay a fortune to have money, that doesn’t work, ”says Danny Jobin, owner of the District Vidéo Lounge and Le Date Karaoké bars on Sainte-Catherine Street in Montreal.