In this week’s paper, we honour all the essential workers and front-line professionals who put their health on the line every day to care for COVID-19 patients and to ensure that our garbage is picked up, our food is delivered, our most vulnerable are cared for and other essential services continue to be carried out during the pandemic.
But there are hundreds of other unsung heroes out there who are rarely recognized. They are the business owners who may very well end up sacrificing their businesses, their marriages and potentially even their own lives. I know of one restaurant owner in Ottawa who recently died of a heart attack brought on, in part, by the stress of not knowing when, if ever, he would be able to open back up.
These are the stats you will never see on the Ottawa Public Health website, or on the local news.
They don’t keep stats on how many divorces, the stress of potentially losing your business will cause, or how many will take their lives when the inevitability of losing everthing they’ve worked becomes too much to deal with.
Their sacrifices are immeasurable and pale in comparison to the sacrifice of not being able to dine out, or go to a movie, or take a vacation abroad, or even visit a loved one.
Entrepreneurs and business owners are a different breed. Not everyone is willing to take a risk by using their life savings, or putting up their house as collateral in order to acquire a loan to start their own business. Most struggle for years before their business becomes successful enough to have a steady income and yet hundreds of entrepreneurs take a giant leap of faith in their own abilities every year in order to pursue their dreams.
For the most part, the success or failure of those small businesses rest in the hands of the owner. But the pandemic and the ensuing shutdown is totally out of their control, making the situation that more difficult.
Many businesses that don’t go into bankruptcy during the shutdown may end up doing so in the months after they eventually open up when the government relief programs expire and their sales fail to rebound to post-pandemic levels.
Restaurants are especially vulnerable during these times. If and when they are allowed to open up, it will be at 50 per cent capacity. Most restaurants operate at a five to eight per cent margin and that’s without any restrictions on seating capacity. Cut their capacity and potentially their revenue by 50 per cent when their costs remain at 100 per cent and you’re inviting disaster.
Our hearts go out to all those business owners who are struggling to survive in these difficult times. Their sacrifice should not go unrecognized or unappreciated.