The struggles of local restaurants

Restaurants are hurting, now the city is upping fees. Plus the cost of private healthcare

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Good morning!

We realized a bit too late we’d never put a notice in Friday’s newsletter that there would be no Monday edition because of Remembrance Day over the weekend. Hopefully you didn’t spend too much time digging around your inbox, wondering if the Lookout had landed in the wrong spot.

Be ready, today at 12:55 the national Alert Ready system will be tested. Don’t be surprised if your phone starts buzzing. The system is being tested in Quebec an hour later, so if you’re close enough to the river you might get a second alert.

Today we’ve got news on how the Ontario government's plan to privatize some surgeries is going, plus the pressure that local restaurants are under.

Let’s get to it.

— Robert Hiltz, managing editor

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Wednesday: +9 🌡️ -3 | 🌤

Thursday: +9 🌡️ +5 | ☀️

Friday: +11 🌡️ -2 | 🌧


City fees imperil many patios

Overflow Brewing

Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

What happened: The city is returning its patio fees to pre-pandemic levels, making many restaurants question whether it’s worth keeping their patios open, CBC reported. Fees are doubling to $15.24 from $7.54 per square metre of patio.

The reason: The increase is part of the winding down of pandemic relief for restaurants that struggled during the height of the pandemic. The city waived the fees entirely for two years, and brought them back at half the amount this year. The city said this slow return of the fees is enough to make a soft landing.

The other side: Many restaurants expanded their patios because of the pandemic, needing to expand outdoor space so people could dine during indoor restrictions. But despite the lessening of those restrictions, restaurants are not yet seeing the return of pre-pandemic customer levels.

  • “Business hasn't really returned to pre-pandemic levels. Downtown vacancies are still up, foot traffic is still down. Those are all things that don't get factored into these decisions,” the general manager of two ByWard restaurants told CBC.

Part of a trend: Fees across the city are going up. Many are sticking to the 2.5 percent increase limit set by Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, but some are rising much higher. Planning applications, garbage fees, and on-street parking are all rising by more than 10 percent.

  • “[It’s] a bit of a shell game at city hall where they're trying to live up to their commitment of a 2.5 per cent budget increase and they're offloading it on all of these fees across all of these various city programs,” another restaurant owner told CBC

Struggling industry

Our food editor Ralf Joneikies spoke to local restaurateurs about the difficulties facing the industry. Here’s an excerpt of part one of his look at the dark clouds looming over Ottawa restaurants:

According to Restaurant Canada’s Food Service Facts 2023 report, the industry is still in a labour crisis. They also cite that customers have not returned to pre-pandemic dining levels. Easy enough to understand as food costs continue to rise and inevitably get passed on to the consumer.  

That same report showed that while consumer spending is up 10 percent (again, rising food costs), 50 percent of restaurants are facing closure. In Ottawa that number is even higher at 56 percent, according to CTV.

To North and Navy’s Adam Vettorel, the report’s findings weren’t a surprise. “I would point out that half of all restaurants being on the verge of failure is nothing new in our industry. This is the hardest game in town and it always will be,” he said. 

The issues facing the industry are complex, he said. “The chefs I speak to generally complain about the ever dwindling talent pool for cooks. Collectively our industry has never offered better pay, benefits, and share of tips and yet the attrition rate is still high,” he said.  

“Everyone seems to have a theory as to why this is but I am not convinced it's an easy phenomenon to pin down. I think a multitude of factors are colliding at once and they were all accelerated by the pandemic.”

Part two of Ralf’s look at the trouble in the city’s food scene will run next Tuesday. Sign up to get Capital Eats straight to your inbox so you won’t miss it.


15 days left to call on our government to stand up for Climate Justice

On November 30, world leaders will be gathering at the COP 28 Climate Summit.

The realities of climate change are more vivid than ever. This summer, Canada burned with record-breaking wildfires. The climate emergency is causing unprecedented damage and suffering, at home and around the world. The hardest-hit communities are those that have contributed the least to the climate crisis. And they need your help.

We're seeing the effects right here in Ottawa. From flooding and storms, our families and neighbours are all impacted. Canada needs to act to prevent further damage.

Call on the Canadian government to do the right thing – tax the biggest polluters, and use that money to support the communities most impacted by the climate emergency.


📸 $14 million: The amount of fines handed out by red light cameras in the city for the first nine months of the year. [CTV]

🚨 98 km/h: The speed a driver was going over the speed limit of 60 km/h near Carleton University this week. [CTV]


🚔 A brawl broke out with combatants waving flares at one another on south Bank Street after sore feelings from a soccer game boiled out of control. Three people were injured, and several weapons were seized by police. [CTV]

🚨 A man was charged with assault and making anti-semitic statements after an altercation at a Kanata gas station. [CTV]

🚓 Six people were arrested in Ottawa, Gatineau, Carleton Place, and Thunder Bay as part of an OPP drug investigation. The six men face 42 drug trafficking-related charges. [CTV]

🗳️ Matt Luloff, councillor for Orléans East-Cumberland, will run for the Conservative Party of Canada in the Orléans riding in the next federal election. He said he will focus on his city councillor duties until the election is called. [Orléans Star]


Province paying clinic above-OHIP rates to do surgeries

What happened: The Ontario government is paying a private clinic to perform OHIP-covered surgeries at rates well above what it pays public hospitals for the same procedures, according to documents obtained by CBC. The revelations in the documents undermine the key assertion that the government’s plan to outsource surgeries to private clinics is cost-effective.

  • The province has begun to expand for-profit surgeries using public dollars. In Ottawa, private clinics have taken on cataract surgeries, while the Riverside hospital has been opened up on weekends for private surgeries to take place in its 

The rates: The Don Mills Surgical Clinic is paid for individual surgeries by three categories — minor complexity ($1,264), moderate complexity ($4,037), and higher complexity ($5,408). Minor surgeries include cataract procedures, a gall bladder removal is considered moderate, and repairing a joint is considered higher complexity, CBC reported.

  • A public hospital is paid $508 per cataract surgery, while the Don Mills clinic receives $1,264. For a knee meniscus repair, a hospital would receive between $1,273 and $1,692, the Don Mills clinic gets $4,037.

Health policy researcher at Simon Fraser University Andrew Longhurst told CBC: “Taxpayers are having to pay significantly more to have the same procedures done in private, for-profit facilities, so investors can make a return.… I see that as a very bad deal for the public.”

Chain operation: The clinic is operated by Clearpoint Health Network, which has several private clinics across the province. Former health minister Christine Elliott registered last week to lobby her former government on behalf of Clearpoint.

The response: The government said the funding numbers for public and private clinics were different, because the higher figure paid to the private clinic covers new equipment and other costs, while hospitals receive funding for their operations separate from per-procedure fees. It’s not clear why the government would need to compensate the for-profit clinics for their equipment.

Desperate for doctors: Surgeries aren’t the only place where private healthcare workers are expanding more work. Recently a clinic on Bank Street planned to charge a membership fee for people to access care from a nurse practitioner. The province said last month it was investigating the clinic to make sure no OHIP services were being provided for a fee. 

  • There are some loopholes around nurse practitioners that allow clinics to charge for certain fees if they aren’t billing OHIP.


Here’s a lovely little home with an interestingly landscaped front year. In the Laurentian View neighbourhood, it boasts three bedrooms, maple hardwood, and lots of other nice touches. The good news is the kitchen has been recently upgraded…the bad news is it’s a galley kitchen.

House of The Week is a home selected by the Lookout team and is not a paid advertisement. All ads are labelled as such. If you’re a realtor who wishes to feature your home in our newsletter, please contact our sales team.


🚏 After reports of possible bed bugs found on buses, OC Transpo deep-cleaned three vehicles without telling the public. The agency did not confirm the presence of the insects before cleaning the buses, and it will not say what routes the vehicles travelled on. [CBC]

🚌 The draft OC Transpo budget passed the transit commission by a 7-2 vote. The commission approved a plan to cut service and raise fares and take on a major reorganization of bus routes across the city, which will roll out in the spring. The transit budget goes to the full council Dec. 6. [City of Ottawa]

🕺 Can a “night mayor” bring a spark to the city’s nightlife and stuffy image? Many think it’s a stretch. [Wall Street Journal]

🚗 The arrival of snow means it’s winter tire season. The high cost still means about one quarter of motorists still use all-season tires. [CTV]

😷 Masks are once again mandatory for staff at long-term care homes across the province, and highly recommended for visitors and caregivers. With the colder weather, respiratory viruses are once again on the rise. [CTV]

💉 A shortage of the diabetic medication Ozempic is hitting patients with the disease hard. The drug has also been prescribed for weight loss, leading to the shortage. [CBC]

👶 A local charity that helps the parents of young children to properly install car seats said it is in need of donations and volunteers to stay afloat. [CTV]

  • Good news! The city will shovel the stairs on the Flora and Corkstown footbridges that cross the Canal. [Twitter]

  • Level up your office small talk with the #1 visual newsletter from our friends at Chartr. Join 300,000+ who love snackable charts and easy-to-remember data insights on business, tech and society. Sign up for free. [Sponsored*]

  • If you’re looking to keep your kids entertained over the holiday break, Red Bird is running daytime children’s programming after New Year’s Day. [Ottawa Citizen]

  • Ah, remember summer? This photo along the Ottawa River sure takes us back. [Reddit]

  • Don’t really have anything pithy to say about this one: it’s a lot of crows. [Reddit]

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Just like newspapers, we’ve got our own classified ads that help fund our journalism. See what organizations and businesses are up to around the city:

  • Glowing candles and the magical sounds of the season will surround you at Thirteen Strings' Christmas Candlelight concert. Get your tickets today!


Congrats to everyone who got last week’s Ottawa Wordle, the answer was ARENA, as in the new arena and event centre approved as part of the Lansdowne 2.0 plan. 

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