Reflections on G20: A restaurateur
Fred Luk lost sales and was left with a 'bitter taste' in his mouth
Restaurateur Fred Luk was a citizen blogger for CBC News during last year's G20 in Toronto. He spoke to us a year later about his experience running Fred's Not Here and The Red Tomato restaurants on King Street West during the summit.
What happened to your business during the G20?
I lost a lot of sales. I had to dig deep into my pockets to compensate for the loss in sales so I could pay bills the following week … so my waitresses, taxes and rent had to come out of my own pocket. Eighty per cent of our business was knocked out during the G20 and no one could have anticipated that. Even a freak snowstorm doesn't cause that kind of havoc to our business.
Why didn't you apply for compensation from the federal government?
The way that [the government] told us to calculate losses for compensation is based on net profit and for us, the profit margin is very slim, maybe three or four per cent. I couldn't be bothered because I'd end up losing half of the money to pay my accountant.
Do you think the process was fair?
I think for a small business it's unfair, because from their point of view, net profit means you would have opened, there was no G20 and you would have made this kind of money. But cash flow is much more important to small businesses than net profit, because for us, to lose $48,000 in cash flow money is pretty devastating. They should have come up with some alternative ways to help us make up for losing that kind of money.
What do you think should have been done?
The government should have known that this was going to devastate businesses downtown. They could do something, like give us a tax holiday. Instead of paying our taxes in June, we could have a three-month delay. That would go a long way for us, instead of giving a small amount of compensation. Obviously, they never thought about that, so, to me, they don't really care about small businesses. Who were they hurting? The small businesspeople, not the big businesses — the Blue Jays moved all their games to Philadelphia — the impact on them compared to me proportionally was not the same.
Looking back to last year, how do you feel about the G20 today?
We still have a bitter taste in our mouths — my small business colleagues and I. It doesn't take a very intelligent person to know when something is wrong. The businesses and residents downtown didn't get the legacy gifts they got in Muskoka. Those improvements [in Muskoka] didn't go to anything to do with G8 up there.
However, we were devastated downtown, we had riots here, windows got trashed and small businesspeople got hurt. Come on, do something for us. A good gesture would go a long way in mending fences and would be good PR for the government.
I'm hopeful now that the Conservatives have a majority in Ottawa perhaps they can take a look to see what they can do for downtown Toronto.
This interview has been condensed and edited.