Some restaurant and bar owners remain uncomfortable with reopening
Restaurants in Calgary may be allowed to open as soon as next weekend. Being allowed to open and actually opening are two different things, though.
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the bar and restaurant industry in Calgary and across the country, and many restaurant owners would love nothing more than to reopen their establishments to start bringing in badly needed revenue.
Preparations are being undertaken cautiously.
“Our whole industry is just waiting for more details,” said Wayne Leong, owner of Melrose Cafe & Bar and OEB Breakfast Co. “We’re cautiously optimistic as we go into it. We want to make sure we follow the guidelines. We’re trying to figure out what the distancing should be, whether everyone has to wear a face mask or gloves, all of that.
“We’re just trying to analyze what the best outcome should be.”
As part of the province’s phased relaunch plan, bars and restaurants could be allowed to reopen at 50 per cent capacity as early as May 14.
There are health and safety questions that each individual restaurant is dealing with, but there are other problems, as well.
The popular Ship and Anchor pub on 17th Avenue will continue to offer takeout and delivery, but management isn’t comfortable with reopening.
Modern Steak says its Kensington and Stephen Avenue locations won’t be opening on May 14.
Leslie Echino, owner of Blink Restaurant and Bar Annabelle in downtown as well as Annabelle’s Kitchen in Marda Loop, is taking different approaches to each of her properties.
Echino hopes she’ll be able to have the patio open at Annabelle’s Kitchen by late May with the restaurant open by early June. Because Bar Annabelle is a small space, it won’t be able to open at 50 per cent capacity.
As for Blink, the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic conditions in downtown Calgary over the past couple years have prompted Echino to close after 12½ years. She’s looking to reopen with a higher-end Annabelle’s Kitchen on July 1.
“(At Annabelle’s Kitchen) we were able to pivot to curbside pickup, but now we’re hiring staff and doing safety precautions to make sure all our staff feel safe coming back to work. That’s a major hurdle,” Echino said.
“We’re working on proper safety procedures and standards. We’re kind of working on a checklist for the Alberta Hospitality Association and Restaurants Canada.”
Across the industry, there’s concern that after two months of significantly reduced revenue, many small businesses will struggle to reopen.
Mark von Schellwitz, western vice-president for Restaurants Canada, said there are high costs associated with essentially restarting businesses.
“For us, it’s quite a startup cost. We’ve got a perishable inventory that has to be restocked. You’ve got to put in new plans. It’s almost like a whole new business plan to handle the 50 per cent capacity. You need new floor plans to handle the physical distancing and new cleanliness and sanitation protocols.”
Seventy per cent of the respondents to an association survey said they had serious concerns about paying their bills over the next three months. Restaurants Canada is calling on the province to provide support to the food service industry as it attempts to reopen.
“As resilient as our industry is, it just won’t be enough to ensure that all 11,000 restaurants remain viable,” von Schellwitz said.