‘It is a dangerous time:’ Several restaurants closing amidst new wave of challenges

WatchCOVID-19 forced a 35-year-old Boston Pizza location in Victoria to shut its doors. As Kevin Charach reports, experts believe other restaurants may soon follow suit.

After 35 years in business, Victoria’s Boston Pizza Hillside location announced Sunday it’s shutting its doors for good.

In a written statement taped to the inside of the front door, franchise owner Jeremy Dewey cited the pandemic, ongoing restrictions, staffing issues and cost of living increases as the primary reasons.

Many fellow restaurant owners can relate to Dewey’s struggles.

“Within the last month and a half, if anything, it’s gotten worse,” said Tim Strachan, owner and operator of Santiago’s Cafe in James Bay.

Strachan says he’s already cut his staff and shortened his hours just to stay afloat.

“It’s just myself and my business partner trying to operate a restaurant,” said Strachan. “But we also went from sales that were a $1,000,000 a year in business down to $200,000.”

Ian Tostensen, president and chief executive officer of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, said the industry is now facing a new wave of challenges.

“It is a dangerous time because all the federal supports which were wage supports and rent supports are gone,” he said.

According to Tostensen, the pandemic is already responsible for the closure of around 3,000 B.C. restaurants. He believes that number could surge in the immediate future.

“January and February are going to be tough months.”

Over in Vancouver, 2022 has already seen the closure of a handful of one-time city hotspots including The Whip and Storm Crow Alehouse.

“This most recent restriction has been insanely tough on us,” said Cody Allmin, owner of The Whip.

Although it’s a difficult stretch for the industry, Tostensen says takeout and delivery orders are up and there’s plenty of reason for optimism down the road.

“Look forward to better weather, springtime, tourism and that should really help us a lot,” said Tostensen.

With restaurant owners on the Island and around the province hoping by then, it’s not too late.

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Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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