B.C.’s devastated restaurant industry is bracing for an extension of current COVID restrictions.
“It’s demoralizing, it’s defeating, it’s hard to get up and focus every day and stay positive,” says Friends of Dorothy Lounge owner Rudy Tomazic.”Financially, it’s really gutting. I think the long-term effects are quite catastrophic.”
The Victoria restaurant is down to just six tables on its outdoor patio after indoor dining was temporarily halted in B.C. at the end of March.
It was only supposed to be for three weeks, but as COVID numbers surge, stakeholders say they’ve been told it will likely be extended through the May long weekend.
“It means that a lot of businesses aren’t going to make it, unfortunately,” says Ian Tostenson of the B.C. Restaurant & Food Association (BCRFA). “We were starting to recover quite nicely before this.”
Some B.C. restaurants closed temporarily — thinking it would just be a short break — while others are scrambling to create or expand outdoor space and Victoria’s mayor says applications for street patio permits are flooding in.
“Since the new restrictions came in, our staff are run off their feet and they’re moving as quickly as they can,” Mayor Lisa Helps says. “It’s important because businesses need customers.”
But patios on the street, which need safety barriers, aren’t cheap. They can cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to build and it’s a big expense for businesses already struggling.
Tomazic figured it wasn’t worth it for a three-week closure, but it’s now something he’s considering to stay afloat.
“I’m going to have to let more staff go unless I get some temporary spade outside,” Tomazic says.
For many restaurants to survive the next few weeks, the BCRFA says they’ll need people on patios, an increase in take-out orders, and for people to buy restaurant gift certificates.
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