When the COVID-19 pandemic hit back in March Lloyd House Pub owner Doug Willitts didn’t really know what to do. The Mount Albert business owner shuttered his doors on St. Patrick’s Day. “I went into a huge tailspin wondering how the heck am I going to get my head above water,” he said.
With a restaurant being a cash flow business, Willitts had to figure out what to do with mounting pile of bills. He had to call suppliers to try and set up some sort of payment schedule. “It sort of takes the wind out of your sails,” he said.
So when the town of East Gwillimbury unveiled its emergency benefit for businesses in coordination with South Lake Community Futures Development Corporation (SLCFDC) Willitts applied. The $250,000 fund was set up by the town using money from the economic development and servicing initiatives portion of the community capital contribution fund.
The funds were provided as grants, up to a maximum of $5,000 for local businesses employing one to four people and up to $10,000 for businesses employing five people or more. The intent of the program was to assist in ensuring the ongoing viability of the business after COVID-19. Willitts received $9,000 from the program.
“It meant everything to me. It was nine grand. I used it to subsidize employee wages and paying of suppliers,” he said. “I used to some of it to improve the curb appeal to the restaurant with a new mobile sign to let people we are open. Without the extra funding it wouldn’t have been possible.”
There was a total of 50 applicants for the program with a total funding request of $472,100.. Applicants were reviewed by SLCFDC staff and Board of Directors in accordance with the established criteria. Of the 50 applicants, 5 were deemed ineligible due to geographic location and 3 businesses were deemed ineligible as a result of inability to demonstrate financial viability prior to the onset of the pandemic.
SLCFDC attempted to ensure that all eligible applicants were able to receive some assistance, even if it was not the full amount requested. Funding allocation was determined by the SLCFDC Board based on their assessment of financial need and established weighting criteria for the program. There were 37 businesses that received funds from the program.
Businesses to get the maximum $10,000 from the fund included, Rail Yard Wake Park, Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park, Equestrian Fashion Outfitters, Gwillimbury Hills Montessori School, Integra Mechanical and Air, Pheasant Run Golf Club, Queensville Farm Supply and Ridgewood Farm.
“Business are very appreciative what the town has down for them,” Mayor Virginia Hackson said. “I felt that we really made a difference at a time when they really needed help.”That sentiment was echoed by Ward 3 Coun. Scott Crone. “I have spoken to a few local businesses that received this funding and can tell you they are very appreciative,” he said.
As for Willitts and the Lloyd House its open and ready for business with some changes. He’s making use of the patio while the weather permits. “We have completely shut down the inside of the restaurant so we can keep outside,” he said. “We’re trying to keep people outside as long as possible.”
While the pandemic has been difficult on the business, Willitts said he can feel the support from the local community who have helped with various projects getting the patio up and running full throttle. “There was a just a lot of local people that wanted to help. I really feel blessed about our community,” he said.
Martin, S (2020), 'East Gwillimbury launches emergency benefit for businesses hit by coronavirus 'It meant everything to me': East Gwillimbury businesses receive boost from town' YorkRegion.com, September 22, 2020
Photo by: Steve Somerville/Torstar
Available at: https://www.yorkregion.com/new...