Coronavirus | Ontario

Province-wide lockdown tightens definition of ‘essential’ businesses and mandates additional capacity restrictions

December 21, 2020

Beginning on December 26, 2020, retailers across Ontario will be faced with additional challenges as the province-wide shutdown takes effect.

Under the terms of the current lockdown, the following retailers are no longer considered ‘essential’ retailers by definition:

  • Hardware
  • Safety supply stores – can continue to operate by appointment only
  • Telecommunications – can continue to operate by appointment only

Furthermore, there is an additional capacity restriction on the “essential” retailers listed below. This category of retail may only operate with a 25% capacity. Ontario defines this as total sales floor, divided by 16 square metres (with the result rounded down).

  • Discount and big box retailers selling groceries
  • Stores, other than stores described in section 3, that sell liquor, including beer, wine and spirits

Capacity limits for all other ‘essential’ businesses, like primary grocery, or pharmacy, continue to have the 50% capacity requirement.

For the following 7 northern PHUs, the lockdown is only 14-days, ending January 9, 2021: Algoma, North Bay, North Western, Porcupine, Sudbury, Timiskaming, Thunder Bay.

For all of 27 the southern PHUs, the lockdown is 28-days, ending January 23, 2021.

RCC is continuing to seek clarity on the definition of ‘discount and big box retailers selling groceries’. So far, our conversations have indicated that retailers who have a similar set up to a retailer like Costco or Walmart (that is to say, a large square footage devoted to the sale of other products) would meet this definition.

Capacity limits for all other ‘essential’ business, like primary grocery, or pharmacy, continue to have the 50% capacity requirement, which has been further clarified with a formula saying total sales floor, divided by 8 sq metres (rounded down).

Click here for RCC’s updated capacity limit calculator.

See Ontario’s province-wide shutdown deck.

Further supports for small business

In tandem with today’s closures, Ontario also announced new, flexible supports for small business. Ontario will provide dollar for dollar matching up to $20,000, in scenarios where businesses (including franchise owners) with fewer than 100 employees have experienced losses.

If your business is significantly restricted (e.g. pet stores) or shut down (e.g. all non-essential retailers) under the province-wide shutdown effective 12:01 a.m. on December 26, 2020, and you have:

  • Have less than 100 employees at the enterprise level; and
  • Have experienced a minimum of 20% revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

You can apply for a one-time grant. Starting at $10,000 for all eligible businesses, the grant will provide businesses with dollar for dollar funding to a maximum of $20,000 to help cover decreased revenue expected as a result of the province-wide shutdown. The business must demonstrate they experienced a revenue decline of at least 20 per cent when comparing monthly revenue in April 2019 and April 2020.

Essential businesses that are allowed to remain open without restrictions will not be eligible for this grant. RCC continues to remind the government that businesses of varying sizes deemed to be “non-essential” are in dire need of assistance from all levels of government, and not just businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

View RCC’s media statement.

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