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Patio season is almost over in Canada. How will restaurants survive a pandemic winter? –



Summer of 2020 has seen a patio season like no other.

Restaurateurs across Canada moved quickly early in the season to create or expand outdoor dining sections, giving themselves more physically distanced capacity, and COVID-cautious customers the confidence to dine out in fresh air.

But as the lazy, hazy days of summer draw to a close, fear of failure is surging.

“My wife and I both operate the business, and we aren’t really sleeping too well,” said Matthew Senecal-Junkeer, owner of The Birds & The Beets in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood. The restaurant typically only has four to six outdoor seats, but this year the city allowed the couple to transform four parking spaces into a 50-seat patio.

“We were hitting capacity, we had every table virtually filled in our restaurant,” said Senecal-Junkeer. “We just had a little preview of what winter could be like when we had a three-day rainy streak in Vancouver, and it meant about a 42 per cent decline from what our sales were the week prior.”

Survival at stake

In Windsor, Ont., John McKibbon is also worried.

“I’d be lying if I said we don’t have anxiety going into the fall and winter,” said McKibbon, who co-owns the Sandbar Waterfront Grill as well as John Max Sports & Wings.

“We’ve had people come to the restaurant wanting to sit outside, and when we’ve been full outside and only had tables indoors, some of those customers have decided not to dine with us that day,” he said.

McKibbon and his partners transformed an outdoor volleyball court at one of their two sports bars into a physically distanced patio on the sand.

A volleyball court at John Max Sports & Wings in Windsor has been converted for patio dining. (Submitted by John McKibbon)

“We think the loss of the patios will have a pretty dramatic effect on our sales,” he said. “There are different levels of anxiety with everyone.”

Canada’s food service sector typically employs 1.2 million people, and prior to the pandemic, served 22 million meals a day across the country, according to industry data.

Statistics Canada recently released the results of a May survey on business conditions. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce crunched the numbers with a focus on restaurant operators, and concluded that 60 percent of participants don’t expect to survive more than three months with the current physical distance restrictions in place.

Already a significant number of restaurants across Canada have closed permanently.

Chamber president and CEO Perrin Beatty urged Canadians to take political action to encourage further financial support of the industry. “Everyone also needs to remind their elected representatives of the importance of our restaurants in our lives,” said Beatty in a press release.

‘We’re not health experts’

The Chamber has teamed up with 60 of the best-known restaurant brands in Canada, along with other hospitality organizations, to launch a campaign called Our Restaurants.  It’s also produced an ad promoting the industry on social media platforms.

But the industry’s own association, Restaurants Canada, is hesitant to push too hard to relax seating requirements, especially as a second wave of the virus begins to build.

“We’re not health experts,” said Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurant Canada’s vice-president for western Canada. “But a number of members have approached us to point out that the World Health Organization guidelines for physical distancing is one meter, not two meters. If we had a one meter distance instead of two that obviously would increase our capacity, and that would be really helpful.”

Von Schellwitz is part of a hospitality industry group that is lobbying the federal government to launch a national campaign to boost consumer confidence in dining out. He pointed to a program in the United Kingdom called “Eat Out to Help Out,” where dine-in customers could receive a 50 per cent discount on their meals throughout the month of August, up to £10 (about $17) per person.

The program ended up costing the government more than expected, as millions of Britons jumped at the incentive, running up a tab of £522 million ($900 million).

Matthew Senecal-Junkeer of The Birds & The Beets restaurant in Vancouver. (Submitted by Matthew Senecal-Junkeer)

But in Vancouver, Matthew Senecal-Junkeer is counting on one thing: his landlord.

“They are asking for full rent now,” he said. “And we’ve had the wage subsidy and we had the patio, so we were able and willing to pay it. But I indicated to them yesterday that look, come October, it’s not I’m saying I don’t want to pay — it’s just there simply is no cash in the bank.”

Calls for more support

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy has helped many restaurateurs, and has been extended until December, but the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program expired at the end of August.

Based in Charlottetown, PEI, Kevin and Kathy Murphy own 16 food and beverage operations in three Atlantic provinces, along with the Prince Edward Island Brewing Company. Patios have always been a big part of their business, but they’ve already closed down their Fishbones Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill early for the season, and are thinking hard about others.

During the summer of 2019, the patio at Sims Corner Steakhouse & Oyster Bar was bustling. This summer the pandemic has meant fewer paying customers. (Murphy Hospitality Group)

“Do we need three restaurants in one street?” asked Murphy. “So we’re thinking, do we close one in October or November? And just go with the other two? We’re also looking at days of the week. Do we go to five days a week versus seven days a week?”

PEI has enacted some of Canada’s strictest policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing restaurants a maximum of 50 patrons at any time, regardless of a venue’s size.

Murphy and other tourism entrepreneurs in the area have banded together to lobby the government for further financial support.

“You do what you have to do to survive and put plans in place to get there,” says Murphy, noting that the industry has always been characterized by resourcefulness and creativity. But he also has a warning for restaurant lovers across the country, about how entrepreneurs have to approach business: “You will not stay open if you’re not making money.”

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Canadian Police Arrested a Man for Sleeping While His ‘Self-Driving’ Tesla Sped Down the Highway – Robb Report



We’ve all felt the need to catch 40 winks at inconvenient times, but one Candian man took his need for shut-eye to a whole new level.

Alberta police have formally charged a 20-year-old man who was caught asleep behind the wheel of his Tesla while the electric vehicle was speeding on autopilot. Authorities were alerted to the scene on the afternoon of July 9th by a caller who noted that both of the front seats were fully reclined with no visible operator. Sgt. Darrin Turnbull told CBC News on Thursday that the car was traveling 87mph in a zone with a speed limit of 68mph. Both the driver and the passenger appeared to be fully asleep, according to police.

“Nobody was looking out the windshield to see where the car was going,” Turnbull told CBC. “I’ve been in policing for over 23 years and the majority of that in traffic law enforcement, and I’m speechless. I’ve never, ever seen anything like this before, but of course, the technology wasn’t there.”

The model in question was a 2019 Tesla Model S, which has an array of autopilot features from auto-steer to “traffic-aware” cruise control, both of which were engaged when the car was stopped. But despite its name, the autopilot function still requires an active driver to monitor the road, making a lack of one remarkably dangerous all on its own. It turned out to be even more detrimental than the concerned police originally thought because once the officers activated their car’s emergency lights, the Tesla began accelerating and eventually reached a speed of 93mph, which was confirmed by a radar scan.

Officers eventually caught up with the vehicle and issued the sleeping driver a 24-hour license suspension for fatigue before an investigation resulted in a charge of dangerous driving. The driver received a court summons scheduled for this December. Fortunately, no one was injured as the incident ensued, but it acts as a serious cautionary tale as Tesla’s autopilot functions have come under sharp scrutiny for their potential links to more than one crash and related death.

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No winning ticket sold in Saturday's $5M Lotto 649 draw – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $5 million jackpot in Saturday night’s Lotto 649 draw.

However, the guaranteed $1 million prize was claimed by a ticket holder in Quebec.

The jackpot for the next Lotto 649 draw on Sept. 23 will be approximately $6 million.

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Online thieves scam Toronto couple out of more than $1,000 in PC Optimum points hack –



When Chris Eggers and his wife signed up for an in-store text message promotion at a Toronto Shoppers Drug Mart, they thought they’d collect extra PC Optimum points.

Instead, Eggers alleges, hackers stole them all.

“Every week, [PC Optimum] would text me, ‘See if you’re a winner and click on the link!'” he explained.

“One of the links I clicked, and I still have the text, asked me to enter my PC optimum information.”

So, Eggers, 37, entered the couple’s log-in details.

“I believe it is at that point that my identity was compromised,” he told CBC Toronto.

All the text messages came from the same number. But only one, he says, asked him to enter his account information.

Eggers signed up for an in-store contest at the end of August at a Toronto’s Shoppers Drug Mart that would send him text messages like these. (Chris Eggers)

A few days later, the couple was alerted that all their points had been cashed in.

“My wife got emails saying that our PC Optimum points were being redeemed at Vaughan Mills Mall, 600,000 of them,” Eggers explained.

“And so, of course, we panic, you know, try to open the app and change everything, but at that point it was all gone.”

Hackers redeemed more than $1,100 worth of points

Emails the couple supplied to CBC Toronto show a total of $1,149.99 worth of merchandise was redeemed at the Shoppers Drug Mart located in the Vaughan Mills Shopping Centre in Vaughan, Ont. north of Toronto.

Eggers notified Loblaw Companies Ltd., the corporation that operates the PC Optimum program, and has since filed a report with York Regional Police.

Eggers’s wife received a series of email alerts from PC Optimum congratulating them for redeeming points, as scammers used their account to redeem over $1,100 worth of merchandise. The couple desperately tried to change their passwords, but weren’t fast enough and all their points were stolen. (Chris Eggers)

Scammers have targeted the reward system before.

Two years ago, CBC News interviewed eight people across Canada who said they’d each had more than 100,000 points stolen from their accounts after Loblaw merged its two rewards programs — PC Plus and Shoppers Optimum — to form PC Optimum on Feb. 1, 2018.

The reported thefts are just one more problem plaguing Loblaw, which was already dealing with technical glitches involving PC Optimum, and fallout from a bread price-fixing scandal, including the related controversy over asking some people to send their ID to collect a $25 gift card as compensation for the overpriced bread.

No connection to text promotion, Loblaw says

When the company replied to Eggers days later, he was told his email had been compromised and there was no connection to the in-store text promotion.

That’s something Eggers still has trouble accepting.

“I don’t believe that because if somebody was going to compromise my email, then they would have gone after my banking,” he said.

The PC Optimum card replaced the PC Plus and Shoppers Optimum loyalty rewards cards following the 2014 merger of Loblaw and Shoppers Drug Mart. Technical issues, including the loss of points and an inability to register, have plagued the new Optimum card since its launch on Feb. 1, 2018. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“It’s quite a leap to think that when you get into somebody’s email that they have a Shoppers Optimum and that’s … the cherry they want to pick.”

In a statement to CBC News, Loblaw says the company reviewed screen shots of Eggers’s contest text messages and related links and has “not found any site/page that asked for PC Optimum account information.”

“The links provided simply show a promotional code,” the statement reads

Loblaw apologizes for ‘the inconvenience this has caused’

However, the retailer does acknowledge recent “smishing campaigns” — text messages asking for information, claiming to be from PC Optimum in recent months. 

“We’re still reviewing to see if that could be the case in this instance,” the company said, adding their investigation is ongoing.

“We are committed to understanding the scenario and how we can best help our customers moving forward.”

Loblaws says representatives have worked with Eggers and his wife to restore their points and secure their account.

The company also says it apologizes for “the inconvenience this has caused [for the couple] and the delay in resolving it.”

Eggers says he’s happy to have their points back but worries others could have also been hacked.

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