LILLEY: New fund seeks your help to support bars and restaurants

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Like so many of us, Tony Carvalho was inspired when seeing the videos of small bar and restaurant owners being thrown a lifeline from the Barstool Sports Fund.

The fund has been handing out grants of several thousand dollars to grateful small businesses across the United States, but nothing of the sort existed in Canada.

“I thought it was a neat idea,” Carvalho said in explaining why he decided to bring the concept north of the border.

Carvalho is a veteran of the restaurant industry in Ontario. He’s been supplying them for years and decided to pull together industry partners to see what could be done.

The Ontario Restaurant and Bar Support Fund has quietly launched mostly with corporate support at this point — but now with an appeal to the public.

A GoFundMe page has raised a few thousand dollars at this point with a goal of $2 million being raised from the public.

“What we’re asking individuals is to do is donate the cost of a typical meal, $25 to support this industry,” Carvalho said.

There’s also a growing push for support from the corporate sector, especially those industries that have benefited from the hospitality sector over the years.

“A lot of corporations make money off this industry, they supply services or goods, now they’ve got to step up to the plate,” Carvalho said.

As the money comes in, the fund, which is a registered nonprofit, will be handing out grants of between $3,000-$5,000 to qualifying businesses.

Carvalho cites stats we’ve heard before from the restaurant industry to explain why he is getting behind this cause.

A staggering eight out of 10 restaurants are losing money or barely scraping by due to pandemic restrictions, 65% report they are operating at a loss, while 19% are breaking even. About half of single location owners say they will have to shut down soon if conditions don’t change.

The fund now has a website where restaurants and bars that want to participate can tell their story in writing or with a video and hopefully be on the receiving end of a grant.

Hockey legend Daryl Sittler is helping the fund, citing his own family’s experience in the industry when he was younger.

“My mom owned and operated a restaurant in St. Jacobs, where I grew up after my dad passed away. I know how difficult and how much work goes into having that business at the best of times. The restrictions and closures have devastated these businesses, and they need our assistance,” Sittler said.

“This is a great initiative to help our local restaurants, pubs, and sport bars that mean so much both to our neighbourhoods and communities.”