After holding on through previous waves of COVID-19, the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia is forecasting hundreds of restaurants might not be able to hold on much longer.
“There isn’t a sector in Nova Scotia that has been battered as hard as restaurants. It’s amazing they’re even staying open,” said Gordon Stewart, president of Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia (RANS).
Currently, restaurants are allowed to be open at 50 per cent capacity and serve until 11 p.m. but customers aren’t showing up like they used to and some days neither can staff, because they’ve either tested positive for COVID-19 or are waiting for a test result.
Dropping revenues coupled with increasing costs and looming deadlines to pay back some COVID-19 support by the end of the year means restaurants are feeling a lot of pressure.
Compound that with staffing shortages worsened by isolations and sickness, and Stewart expects a lot of restaurants will temporary close in the short term but others will close down altogether.
“They’re probably almost in the worst shape they’ve been. They’re neither fish nor foul. They’re not up, they’re not down. They’re just in really awkward situation,” Stewart said.
At Le Bistro by Liz in Downtown Halifax, regular customers have offered some reprieve and staff have dodged COVID-19 so far. Still, profits are in the past and right now the restaurant is focused on surviving.
“And that’s both financially and mentally,” owner Liz Ingram-Chambers said.
Ottawa has recently extended relief for rent and wages to provinces with capacity limits of 50 per cent—which currently includes Nova Scotia.
In mid December, Nova Scotia also announced a one-time grant of up to $7,500 for businesses such as restaurants, gyms and live performing art venues based on November 2021 gross payroll costs.
But there are calls to broaden that program.
Louis-Philippe Gauthier, with the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses believes it should be widened to all businesses that need help.
Ingram-Chambers believes her business will qualify for some money, but not for the total amount.
“It’s got to be more than just in January,” she said. “This is something we’re having to live with so if it can be extended a little long I think you’ll see more restaurants being able to pull through.”
On Jan. 1, long-time business Tancook Brand Sauerkraut announced online it would be permanently closing ‘due to financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.’
CTV News requested an interview with the company but did not hear back.
Like the cases that come with each COVID-19 wave, business has also ebbed and flowed at Garrison Brewery.
Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said on Monday he couldn’t justify a stricter lockdown, nor can he justify keeping the door wide open.
Welcome words to Brian Titus, the brewery’s owner, who is also the president of the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia.
“There are restrictions on right now. We support them. They’re reasonable. We just hope it doesn’t get any worse,” Titus said.