Revelstoke businesses are frustrated and scrambling after the province abruptly implemented new COVID-19 rules.
“This closure means more devastation,” said Rebecca Marchildon, owner of the Alchemy Studio.
On March 29, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced new restrictions halting indoor dinning, closing group fitness classes and banning in-person religious meetings. The new closures are scheduled to last until April 19.
“It’s so crazy that the government can randomly shut off our source of income,” said Marchildson. The Alchemy Studio runs yoga and other group fitness classes.
She said it appears the province has no clear plan when it comes to weathering a third wave of rising COVID-19 infections.
“There is no end in sight. At what point do you just decide to give up and stop going in the hole?”
Premier John Horgan said, March 29, case counts have been “unacceptably high” the previous 10 days. From March 27 to 29, 2,500 new cases were recorded.
Regardless, many business owners said the swift new restrictions came without warning during an already challenging year.
“It feels like we’ve take one step forward and been hit with a baseball bat,” said Josh McLafferty, owner of Monashee Spirits Craft Distillery.
According to a survey by Black Press Media in January, more than one-third of businesses in Revelstoke have lost revenues beyond 50 per cent due to COVID-19 since last March.
While talking to Black Press Media, McLafferty installed his patio. Monashee Spirits Craft Distillery plans to collaborate with other businesses in Revelstoke, such as the Village Idiot. McLafferty will provide drinks and the Village Idiot the cuisine via a food truck.
“We’re just trying to find creative ways to stay open,” said McLafferty.
While Mayor Gary Sulz expected COVID-19 numbers to increase during spring break, these snap closures also caught him off guard.
“I am shocked,” he said.
Sulz said he worries whether businesses and their staff will be able to survive the prolonged COVID-19 storm.
The Easter holiday is one of the most profitable weekends during the ski season, said Stephen Jenkins, owner of the Quartermaster Eatery and Explorers Society Hotel.
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He said his restaurant is stuck with a full kitchen of inventory. While the City of Revelstoke swiftly allowed patios to open March 30, approximately 14 weeks earlier than usual, Jenkins said for now his restaurant will focus on take-out, preferring to wait until warmer weather to offer outdoor dining.
While post-Easter is typically a slow period for businesses in Revelstoke, Jenkins said this year will be particularly difficult. Not only are there less travellers, but Highway 1 upgrades near Golden will close the road completely until mid-May, making it far more difficult for tourists to reach our city. Not to mention, the new COVID-19 restrictions on top of that.
“It’s going to be a dislocated shoulder season,” he said.
Jenkins said while the recent rules harm his restaurant, they have also hammered his hotel. Soon after the restrictions were announced, he said people started calling to cancel accommodation bookings.
He said a strong summer economically will be critical for recovery.
“Lets hope this is the last closure. Third time the charm,” said Jenkins.
While some businesses have pivoted to patios and takeout, others have halted operations until April 19 and laid off all staff.
“It’s just not worth staying open,” said Roddy MacIsaac, owner of Big Bend Cafe.
Compared to last year, business has already plummeted by 60 per cent he said.
“We were barely holding on.”
MacIsaac said the restaurant industry is being targeted unfairly and the restrictions should not be province-wide, but in areas with high COVID-19 numbers. As of March 30 there are 421 new cases in Fraser Health Authority, compared to 67 in the Interior. In the last weekly update for Revelstoke, there were only two new cases.
The sentiment for regional restrictions is echoed by MLA for Revelstoke Doug Clovechok.
MacIsaac said these new restrictions might be the final breaking point for many businesses across the province.
“We’ve given Dr. Bonnie Henry the power of God,” he said.
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