Even though the province allowed restaurants to reopen dine-in service at a 25 per cent capacity limit, some restauranteurs, like Obby Khan, say it’s not a feasible number.
“We only have ‘X’ amount of seats in there [and] we’re fast casual,” the Shawarma Khan owner tells 680 CJOB.
“All the requirements for tracing people that come in, limit to their family, the distance between tables — it just doesn’t make sense [for us].”
Khan’s far from alone in that plight, according to the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce, which says a 50 per cent capacity limit is the make-or-break point where restaurants can hope to turn a profit.
“The goal is that as we continue to see numbers decrease, potentially in the next stage we can see that increase to a level that would make it more palatable for restaurants to reopen,” chamber president Chuck Davidson says.
Khan’s comfortable with sticking to the take-out and delivery model the business has used exclusively for the past three months, crediting support from all three levels of government to keep his ship afloat.
“Because of the wage subsidy and rent relief programs, the province stepping up with the Bridge Grant, and even the city stepped up, so we’re OK.”
“We’re losing a bit, but we’re not losing a ton.”
Two of Khan’s six restaurants across the city remain completely closed, with the hopes he can reopen them in the spring or summer.
“I understand both sides of the complexity of this, safety is first. With that in mind, we decided [to stay with] grab and go and delivery, and we’ll keep doing that as long as we can.”
Friday’s changing of provincial restrictions aimed to slow the spread of COVID-19 gave restaurants, fitness centres, nail salons and tattoo parlors the green light to open, but it didn’t mean a return to life as we knew it in early November before sweeping measures went into effect.
“We’re moving forward with a personal training program and open gym slots,” The Community Gym owner Amie Seier explains. “It’ll allow us to bring people back into the space. Not everyone can workout from home.”
It’s not the first time Seier’s pivoted her gym’s services to satisfy restrictions — the business runs a successful home fitness program — but this time, it’s left a sour taste in her mouth.
“It’s a little bit counter-intuitive. I look at the new layout and it makes more sense to do group fitness classes. For some reason, the province doesn’t think that’s safe.”
Gyms like Seier’s that once made their money off group classes are allowing individuals to workout in dedicated spaces, but many don’t see eye-to-eye with the provincial requirement that training can be one-on-one or individual only.
Seier’s frustration with the provincial government was only amplified during the shutdowns when her business was denied funding as part of the Safe At Home program.
“I have applied for a couple of grants and we weren’t given that, as well as a couple of my fellow gym friends out there.”
She’s hoping the province will listen to groups like the Manitoba Fitness Council and bring their voice to the table before restrictions are revisited to come up with a solution that balances public health and business vitality.
Though they come from two different industries, both Khan and Seier have a massive appreciation for Manitobans who’ve thought to support local during the second shutdown.
“I wasn’t surprised by it. Everyone loves everything Winnipeg,” Khan says.
“We’ve changed as a society to think about supporting local before supporting anywhere else.”
“That’s a real good thing to come out of this.”
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