CALGARY -- A number of Calgary restaurants ceased operations and laid off the majority of their staff amid COVID-19 concerns, even though the province has allowed them to remain open.

“We’ve closed nightclubs and bars," said Premier Jason Kenney during a news conference Tuesday afternoon where he declared a provincial public health emergency. "We will allow sit down restaurants to continue operating on a limited basis - at least for the time being,”

The 'limited basis' he referenced meant that sit-down restaurants can serve a maximum of 50 patrons, or operate at half-capacity, whichever is less.

For many local restaurant groups, the limited basis scenario foreshadowed a dire, economically unworkable situation.

Instead, multiple closures are now in effect across the city.

“We did lay off everyone,” said Glen Manzer chief operating officer for Creative Group of restaurants which includes Free House, Cibo, Bonterra, and Posto among others.

Glen Manzer, COO of Creative Group

“They will all be rehired when it settles," he added. "And we thought it would be the easiest way for them to get compensation - as opposed to cutting people and staying open.”

The owner of Modern Steak and Modern Ocean has also closed the doors and laid off nearly 90 per cent of his workforce.

“This is the hardest decision I’ve ever made,” said Stephen Deere.

“As things get better," Deere added, "Our goal is to hire our staff back as soon as possible.”

As of March 23rd, the restaurant is launching a new menu for delivery called “mBurger”, available exclusively through Skip The Dishes and DoorDash.

Deere says it allows him to keep a small crew on with his “ghost kitchen” concept, a trend in other cities.

Retail creativity

Willow Park

Calgary wine and liquor merchants are also becoming creative using delivery service -  and in the process, creating  a new sort of booze boom.

Willow Park Wine and Spirits offered free delivery for 72 hours on its online platform, and says it has seen 150 new customers already.

After all, if an entire city's prescription to overcome what ails it is 'Netflix and chill', there's no question what the missing ingredient is for a lot of Calgarians.

“People are saying," said Peggy Parry,  " (That) we still need wine.”