As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, bars, restaurants and hotels in Manitoba face an ongoing financial struggle with new provincial health restrictions.
The latest blow is a series of Code Orange restrictions affecting the Winnipeg area, which went into effect Monday — limiting hours at licensed premises, among other changes.
Industry organizations say they’re happy to have been consulted by government on the recent restrictions, but their members are still looking for answers to remain afloat during these unprecedented times.
Scott Jocelyn, president and CEO of the Manitoba Hotel Association, told 680 CJOB the most recent changes were “inevitable” with Manitoba’s rising numbers of positive coronavirus cases.
“It was good for us to be a part of the discussion,” he said. “We knew what was on the table.
“Were we happy where it landed? Not totally, but the reality is for us it could’ve been worse. We were in a stage where we were closed before with no machines on, no alcohol being sold.
“These are the guidelines, and we’re hoping the public will do the right thing and help us deliver on these guidelines so we can get out of Code Orange and start to move us back to reality. We need reality to survive.”
Read more: 51 new cases of coronavirus in Manitoba, new rules come into effect for bars and restaurants
Jocelyn said rather than debate the province’s orders, he’d like there to be recognition of the unique struggle hotels, bars and restaurants are facing, and for a tailor-made solution to be worked on.
“(The province needs to) realize these are impacting what we do, and the bills that we have to pay, and we need help,” he said.
“We need sector-specific help, and to date, we haven’t received that.”
The province, Jocelyn said, is in a challenging situation, trying to balance health and safety with economic difficulties during the pandemic. Some of their programs have been very beneficial for other businesses, he said, but not necessarily his industry.
“They’ve rolled out some programs, but the reality for us is some of those programs are not helpful for the situation that we’re in. You’re not going to come up with a solution that is going to fit everyone.
“We’re going to need to take longer to recover.”
Manitoba Restaurants and Food Services Association president Shaun Jeffrey shares many of Jocelyn’s views.
“Obviously (the new restrictions) are detrimental,” said Jeffrey.
“Our industry has already been — with COVID-19 restrictions — detrimented, and obviously Code Orange didn’t assist with that, so this isn’t a move in the right direction.
“We do appreciate the consultation (with the province)… but we unfortunately would’ve hoped it would have nothing to do with a revenue deterioration model.”
Jeffrey said his association, like Jocelyn’s, has been in regular contact with the province about creating industry-specific assistance, and those talks will continue.
To hasten a return to business as usual, he said, Manitobans will have to work together to follow health protocols and reduce transmission of the virus.
Read more: A list of potential coronavirus exposures in Manitoba for the past two weeks
He said almost all operators and patrons across the province have been diligently following the rules thus far, but there’s a tiny percentage that still need to get on board.
“We need to flatten the curve… we need to work together — businesses, patrons, operators, staff… we all need to work together to get through this.”
Tony Siwicki, owner of the Silver Heights Restaurant and Lounge in Winnipeg, told 680 CJOB he was hoping for some help from the municipal government. With a recent motion by Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood) voted down at council, howeveer, he’s now looking to the province for the next step.
“Everybody’s affected. Every industry has their effects. We’ve been hit the hardest, we feel,” he said.
“Same with hotels. Everybody’s pretty much connected — vendors, producers, suppliers… everyone’s affected somehow.
“It just seems like we’re 100 per cent customer-based business, and with no customers, how do we keep going? With more restrictions added… when we were running the with restrictions previously, it was (already) tough to do.”
Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, announced Tuesday that the new changes to licensed premises are as follows:
No sale or service of liquor may take place in licensed premises between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m.
The operator of the licensed premises must ensure that all members of the public vacate the licensed premises by 11 p.m.
Licensed premises must be closed for dine-in services between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Staff must obtain contact information in writing from at least one person in each party attending the licensed premises and the licensee must retain this information for 21 days, after which it must be destroyed.
The order does not prevent food from being sold from licensed premises after 11 p.m. for delivery or take-out.
These orders impact the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region currently under orange and do not apply to liquor retail.