In this edition of Road to Recovery with Douglas Magazine, CHEK’s Kori Sidaway chats with Peter Wood, owner of Bear & Joey Cafe in Victoria, about the challenges he and his business have faced since opening up at the beginning of the pandemic.
Bear & Joey opened two months into the pandemic, with Wood investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into his dream. The original plan was to have a 70-seat restaurant with a 90-seat event space that could be used in the evenings.
Unfortunately, by the time Bear & Joey was ready to open, the pandemic had arrived and the province had imposed rules restricting restaurants to take-out service.
“We were only allowed to operate in a take-out fashion,” he said. “So, we kind of put all this infrastructure in place, trained staff … but we had to pretty much flip that on its head to a take-out restaurant.”
Because Bear & Joey opened in the early stages of the pandemic, they don’t qualify for government support and although they did well in the summer, they’re still facing steep overhead.
“The problem is we still have that overhead of the 70-seat restaurant. The sales simply aren’t there. We opened and we were doing really well, especially through summer; it was obvious the concept was well received and we had such wonderful support,” Wood explained. “But the reality is we are still looking at 12 grand a month in rent, wages and rent combined, we are looking at over $40,000 a month.”
Wood said with just a few tables outdoors, due to new restrictions imposed by the provincial government, they are losing a “couple” thousand dollars a week.
“The numbers are so far away from making sense, something does have to give. We are happy to ride it out, we will be here regardless, but at the end of the day, we are not really given a fighting chance,” he said. “It doesn’t matter your location, your experience as an operator, right now it is kind of out of control and we are completely dictated by the government and we are not getting any help.”
As a result, Wood has joined a campaign called Save Startups, a group of new businesses in Canada who are ineligible for essential COVID-19 financial support from the federal government.
“The biggest point we are making is that we are affected by the economic conditions just like everyone else,” said Wood. “The fact that we had everything in place before the pandemic, we were completely committed to our project, those are the two main key arguments to our request to get access to those programs.”
Learn more about Save Startups and the efforts made by Bear & Joey in the video above.
Road to Recovery is done in partnership with Douglas Magazine.