ByWard Market restaurants close after 41 years due to COVID-19
The Fish Market Group announced its closure Tuesday
A trio of long-running ByWard Market restaurants are the latest Ottawa dining establishments to shut down because of COVID-19.
The Fish Market Group, which encompasses The Fish Market Restaurant, Coasters Seafood Grill and Vineyards Wine Bar Bistro, has been operating in the ByWard Market for 41 years.
In a social media post Tuesday, the owners said it was "with a broken heart" that they were closing their doors.
"Like so many others, the COVID-19 virus closure has devastated our business. We are unable to recover and will not reopen our beloved three restaurants," they wrote.
'I don't think they'll be the last one'
The closing of another restaurant is "really sad to see," said Sarah Chown, who heads the Ottawa chapter of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association.
"My heart goes out to the owners and the staff," Chown said.
"I don't think they'll be the last one, and we're going to hate to see those empty storefronts. It's not good for anything. With the lack of tourism down here, it's going to be a real struggle for a lot of places."
Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury said he's counted three other ByWard Market businesses that have shut down since the pandemic hit, adding the latest closure was particularly devastating.
"It's a family business, it's locally owned, and last year they were impacted by the neighbouring fire at Vittoria Trattoria," Fleury said.
"So their revenue over last summer was challenging … this is kind of a double whammy for them."
Loan program needed
While the city is deferring the payment of commercial property taxes until October, Fleury said he's hearing from businesses that the lost revenue so far — plus the decline in tourists this summer and the threat of a similar decline involving students this fall — means the deferral might not be enough.
He said the city and business community are in talks with the province about some sort of financial assistance.
"The provincial government really needs to put in a loan program where businesses can push all of those financial pressures during the COVID period and repay that over the next five years, so that they can really put their focus on reopening," Fleury said.
CBC Ottawa reached out to the owners of The Fish Market Group, but have yet to hear back.