For many of us, life has changed drastically over the last few months. Spring is often the time of year where we begin to venture outdoors again, enjoying the mild weather after a long and harsh winter. This year, however, we have done the exact opposite – enjoying the fresh air from our backyards and balconies, and only venturing out for essential purposes as we practise safe distancing. While our lives have been changed by this global pandemic, our local restaurants and businesses have been particularly affected.
The impact of COVID-19 in the local business community has been nothing short of devastating. Since the government ordered the closure of all non-essential industries in March, we have seen some of our favourite spots close their doors. Only a month after the closure order was issued, a survey undertaken by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas reported that more than half of Toronto’s small businesses fear they will have to shut down permanently as a result of COVID-19. While all levels of government have offered relief measures to those affected by the pandemic, the sad reality is that they have often not been enough to keep our Main Street businesses afloat.
As a long-time supporter of Toronto’s small business community, I believe we must continue exploring creative strategies to support our local businesses – especially in times of crisis. Before I was elected City Councillor, I worked as a senior manager in the City’s Economic Development division. In 2003, when Toronto was facing the SARS epidemic, I spearheaded the Summerlicious and Winterlicious programs to help stimulate the suffering restaurant industry. Both programs have since become staples in the City’s annual events roster.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, my team has worked closely with our Ward 15 BIAs – including the dedicated Bayview-Leaside BIA team – to establish a Shop Local, Eat Local initiative to support small businesses in Don Valley West. Our community is home to some of the best shopping and dining locations in Toronto and we can still do our part to support them, even if we cannot shop exactly as we have in the past.
The Shop Local, Eat Local initiative seeks to promote our neighbourhood through these uncertain times and into the future. As many of these businesses begin to recover and rebuild in the wake of COVID-19, I encourage you to continue safely supporting our small business community. Every dollar we spend at our local businesses will help. On my website, you can find a list of restaurants with delivery and takeout options, and businesses where you can shop online or in accordance with the most current Toronto Public Health recommendations: www.jayerobinson.ca/shop-local-eat-local.
While Toronto continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, I remain heartened by the support we have shown not only our local businesses, but also each other.