Restauranters with outdoor patios worry about insurance

·4 min read

.Renfrew – Restauranteurs who are establishing a patio on town property should know by today how much insurance coverage they will require.

Currently, the amount is $5 million per incident, however, some council members feel that is too much and are hoping it will be lowered to $2 million. A motion to keep the insurance at $5 million was discussed at the July 14 council meeting.

Finnegan’s Roadhouse owner Beatty Gould questioned if the liability insurance amount could be reduced to $2 million from the $5 million due to the cost of the premiums.

Mayor Don Eady was quick to note he would be in favour of the reduced $2 million.

“I won’t support the motion of $5 million,” he said. “I did my research. Arnprior is $2 million, as are some major cities, including Mississauga.”

Councillor Tom Sydney said in all probability, if the restaurant is sued the town most likely would be as well since the patio is on municipal property.

Public Works Director Marc Asselin explained each insurance policy would be required to have an indemnification clause, which simply means the town would not be involved in paying the claim. However, he added, that would not stop someone from suing the town.

Mr. Asselin did add if the town did become involved in a lawsuit, it would most likely have to pay out the larger amount.

“The purpose of the $5 million is to ensure restaurants have sufficient insurance to cover claims without having clients approach the municipality seeking retribution,” he explained. “The more coverage they have, the less chance the town would be involved.”

Reeve Peter Emon said he is nervous when he reads correspondence from an insurance company giving information without plenty of information, noting the town’s insurance company, Brokerlink, had only two paragraphs in its letter, and one was that it would be best to have $5 million in coverage.

“Insurance companies are weird companies to deal with when they have to start writing a cheque,” he quipped.

Reeve Emon suggested a special council meeting be held where an insurance representative could explain the coverage it is requesting.

Councillor Mike Coulas agreed with Reeve Emon, noting insurance companies want people to buy as much insurance as possible, and then double that amount.

While it’s important the town protects itself from lawsuits, he noted there are businesses that are suffering and coming out of 18 months of pretty dramatic circumstances.

“We need to shed light on the bad voyage that they’ve had. I’m much more in favour of $2 million myself,” he said.

He was referring to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in March 2019.

Coun. Coulas said if council was to wait until an insurance representative came to a meeting to explain the company’s position, Mr. Beatty most likely wouldn’t have a patio this year.

Mr. Asselin agreed, noting the building permit for the patio is sitting on his desk, awaiting council’s decision, noting if it remains at $5 million, the permit most likely will be cancelled.

Mayor Eady said he would not support the $5 million insurance policy.

“Our businesses have been shut down, or badly affected, the past two-and-a-half years,” he said. “If nothing else, I would love to see (the insurance coverage) lowered to $2 million and revisit it in a year or two when everyone is back on their feet.

“I agree with Reeve Emon and Councillor Coulas that insurance companies are out to make money.”

Coun. Sydney agreed, saying by having the $5 million insurance policy, “we are limiting businesses from succeeding, and they’ve already been hurt enough.”

Councillor Andrew Evans, speaking from a professional point of view, said, insurance is a mathematical equation based on affordability and losses.

“If $5 million is the standard or safe number, we should stick with that number,” he said.

The businesses are already getting a deal from the town because there is no charge for using municipal property as a patio, Coun. Evans added.

On the suggestion from Reeve Emon, council agreed to hold a special council meeting Tuesday, July 20 (last night) to review a power point presentation from the insurer about this subject.

Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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