Restaurant owners concerned amidst variant discussions
CALGARY -- Business at the Kensington Pub isn’t what it once was.
Decades into the community staple’s run, owner Lynn Porteous says there’s plenty of reasons it’s slower than ever before. And every reason — from capacity limits to diner hesitation to health restrictions — all circle back to a familiar foe: COVID-19.
“It’s not profitable,” Porteous said. “I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to use that word again. Staying flat is all I want.”
The pub isn’t an anomaly.
Across the province, thousands of bars and restaurants have been in the fight of their lives.
Many spoke of barely breaking even in December before they were shut down. And almost a week into their second reopening of the pandemic, it’s the same story.
People are dining-out, but not like they once were.
Valentine’s Day is typically a saving grace in the industry’s slow season, and while some reported high dine-in sales Saturday and Sunday, that wasn’t the case for everyone.
Three establishments told CTV News Sunday tentative customers seem to be content to use takeout and delivery options rather than to don a mask and sit at a table.
“Yesterday we did more takeout than in-house dining,” Bonterra’s Megan Sereda said. “Next week will be a telling one.”
Five days into the latest reopening, eyes are now turning back to the virus situation.
Variant cases are increasing in Alberta, and some health experts believe a third wave is imminent.
The province has said it doesn’t want to slow down the economy yet again, but some believe Jason Kenney’s hand will eventually be forced.
“This is the biggest wildcard imaginable,” University of Alberta Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger said. “Keeping everything on a short leash right now is important.”
More restrictions could be lifted as early as next month.
“I think the discussion about whether further easing is possible really is going to depend a lot on the variant discussion,” Saxinger said.
“This was not part of the original road map.”
Porteous says the slowdowns have been tough, but now her eyes are set firmly ahead.
“I honestly though we were doomed,” she said. “I could actually see all our account draining. (Now) it’s kind of a bittersweet situation not knowing how long we’ll be able to be open again.”
Bonterra’s parent company is also hesitant.
“We have another location, Free House in Kensington, which is our beer hall,” Sereda said. “We’ve actually chosen not to open it yet just because....it doesn’t make sense to bring in all 24 taps and all that just to get shut down again in a month.”