VICTORIA -- Like many business across B.C., the pandemic has been hard on Victoria restaurant Bear & Joey. On Wednesday, owner Peter Wood welcomed news that the province would offer businesses a $7,500 grant to improve their online presence.

 “I’m thinking a lot of people probably would have liked to invest that sort of money prior, but probably couldn’t justify it,” said Wood.

The grants come from $12 million that Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon says will go out to small- and medium-sized businesses across the province on a first come first served basis.

Bear & Joey opened in May, right in the midst of the pandemic.

Wood says online sales and takeout are key to sustaining his business, and the new grant will beneficial in that regard.

“I think a lot of people are still hesitant to leave their house, they’re hesitant to walk into a restaurant,” says Wood. “So anything online is huge for any business, not just restaurants,”

Despite the enthusiasm generated by Wednesday’s announcement, many small and mid-sized businesses haven't accessed the government’s previously announced business grants, including up to $30,000 for tourism-related businesses.

Bear & Joey is one of those businesses that hasn’t benefited from that previous grant. It’s not eligible for it because it hasn’t been operating long enough -- a fact Wood says is unfair, especially because they had already committed to opening prior to the pandemic

“In the restaurant industry especially, cash flow is critical, as opposed to taking on more loans,” says Wood.

The government indicated it has no plans to change the eligibility rules for the earlier business grant, meaning Bear & Joey will likely have to forego that provincial funding and focus on online sales.