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ICYMI: City council backs entrepreneurs having a fighting chance

Some 15 downtown businesses have closed in 2023, with nine up for sale for a number of months as owners try to escape debt
Stratford City Hall.

In Case You Missed It. This article was previously published on StratfordToday. 

Stratford City Council is endorsing a letter to, “let our entrepreneurs have a fighting chance.”

At Monday night’s meeting, council unanimously passed a motion to endorse a letter from the Downtown Stratford Business Improvement Area (BIA), calling on the federal government to extend the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan repayment deadline. 

The CEBA loan is an interest-free loan of up to $60,000 offered during the COVID-19 pandemic to small businesses and not-for-profits. 

By paying off the loan by the deadline, 33 per cent, up to $20,000, would be forgiven. Originally, the deadline was Dec. 31, 2022, later extended by a year to 2023. 

In September of this year, that deadline was again extended, to Jan. 18. 

Local businesses are seriously concerned about being able to pay that loan back by the deadline. 

As stated in the letter, 15 downtown businesses have closed in 2023. Jamie Pritchard, general manager for the BIA, later clarified to StratfordToday that additionally one business moved from the downtown core.

The businesses that have closed are AO Pasta, Compudoc, Yummy's, Schatzii, York Street Kitchen, Lady Glaze Doughnuts, BBQ Stratford, 23 Restaurant Lounge, Rockwell Lounge, The Hub, Braai Bar, Braai House, Dudes & Dames, Grounded, and Yilmaz E-Bike.

Additionally, nine businesses have been up for sale for a number of months as owners try to escape debt. 

"There have been dozens of other small business closures in the City of Stratford in 2023," the letter reads. "These closures represent hundreds of jobs lost with well over a hundred in the last week alone."

Coun. Larry McCabe said that the repayment of CEBA loans is causing a large problem in the small business communities across the country, specifically in areas where tourism plays a vital role, as it does in Stratford. 

“The opportunity to pay back these loans has not been extended long enough,” he said. “And I would support endorsing the letter from the BIA as well as trying to pressure the federal government to become the lender for the extension of these loans to five years as opposed to two which is an unreasonable expectation. I just think that there are no lenders out there for these businesses to even roll over these loans.”

The letter will be sent to John Nater, MP for Perth-Wellington, and Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Finance of Canada. Coun. Jo-Dee Burbach, who made the original motion, also suggested sending the letter to all municipalities in Ontario. 

The letter calls for an extension of the forgiveness deadline to coincide with the new repayment deadline of Dec. 31, 2026.