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Liquor licence fees will be waived under new hospitality supports

Temporary measures will provide cash and streamline the foreign worker program
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

The government has announced new financial supports for bars and restaurants in the territory continuing to struggle with COVID-19 restrictions.

“I think you’d have a hard time finding a program for restaurants and bars anywhere else in the country that is at this level of support and flexibility,” said Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai.

“We’re really trying to ensure that we fill gaps that might exist based on what we’ve seen from the federal government and programs that we’ve already delivered to Yukoners,” he said.

Previously, bars and restaurants have been supported through the Yukon Business Relief Program, Tourism Non-Accommodation Sector Supplement and federal CanNor Northern Business Relief Fund.

Pillai announced Feb. 10 that new sources of funding would open under the non-accommodation supplement.

All bars and restaurants throughout the territory are eligible to receive up to $20,000 per month, to a maximum of $60,000 or to breakeven. This funding is available to cover both fixed and variable costs, including payroll.

The Yukon Liquor Corporation will provide bars and restaurants with a rebate on their liquor licence fee for the 2022-23 licence year.

An additional, one-time supplement of $10,000 will be available regardless of breakeven.

“They might be at a breakeven but like many owners, they’re always going to put their businesses and their staff ahead of themselves, and so this is recognizing that and of course giving them the opportunity to take potentially even salary on their own,” explained Pillai.

“With that being said, I think you know, our hope in Economic Development and Tourism and Culture is that this not only gets folks through this, but in some cases, gives them a bit of a tailwind as we go into the spring,” he said.

Pillai said his hope is that COVID-19 will continue to trend positively, opening up the summer season for more tourism.

He noted that the government has worked closely with the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon to fund “navigator” roles that help businesses access funds.

Bars and restaurants who apply must have been operating over the period for which they are claiming support. The program is retroactive to Nov. 8, 2021, when the current State of Emergency began, and will expire on March 31.

The government is also making a temporary adjustment to the foreign workers program in order to help businesses cope with a labour shortage.

“Yukon continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in Canada, which is good news, but it does present challenges for employers,” said Pillai.

Under the existing Yukon Nominee Program employers looking to hire a foreign worker are required to recruit locally and nationally, advertise a position for four weeks and continue to search locally during the application process.

Those requirements will now be waived until June 30, allowing employers to streamline the process of bringing foreign employees into the Yukon.

“We are now temporarily leaving these requirements to allow employers to act quickly and address their staffing needs,” said Pillai. “I look forward to seeing new faces in our territory under the streamlined approach and supporting our businesses.”

Contact Haley Ritchie at