'Stop moaning,' Calgary cafe owner tells fellow operators amid debates over rising labour costs

Inglewood cafe owner Andy Fennell took to Facebook this week imploring his fellow business owners to 'stop moaning' and discuss the challenges they face within a wider context.

Inglewood proprietor Andy Fennell says he wants to see more context and perspective in the discussions

Andy Fennell owns Gravity Espresso and Wine Bar in Inglewood. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

When it comes to small businesses in Calgary, no one is denying that challenges lie ahead, but some business owners say the struggles are not insurmountable. 

An increasing carbon tax, along with a rising minimum wage and other mounting costs such as the federal liquor tax have restaurateurs crunching and re-crunching the numbers.

'Stop moaning! ... We will make this work'

Andy Fennell owns the Gravity Espresso and Wine Bar in Inglewood and he took to Facebook this week frustrated primarily by the kerfuffle in Ontario between Tim Horton's owners and their employees because they've cut benefits as wages rise there. 

"Sick of hearing about large corporations moaning about the minimum wage increases across the country and the change of stat holiday pay legislation in AB," the post reads.

"Take note, there are many small business owners that understand the financials of running a café or restaurant. And, we know that with your brand power and volumes, these changes represent a drop in the ocean... stop moaning! Gravity is one location and we will make this work."

Fennell says he isn't one who is typically inclined to publicize his views, but hopes that he can encourage other business owners to provide context to the conversation instead of talking in extremes. 

Scott Winograd, the co-owner of the Bear's Den restaurant just outside of Calgary, blamed the NDP this week for the closure of his restaurant.

"The world's not falling in. This is a tough world to live in and people deserve and need financial help when it comes to working in a business ...  And in the position I'm in, I just wanted to take away the blanket statements and put a bit of perspective around it," Fennell says.

"I just think there's an obligation there to pay people a decent pay in a world that's getting more expensive."

However Fennell doesn't support all of the new labour changes, such as the new requirement of businesses to pay their staff on statutory holidays regardless of whether or not the staff member worked. 

"​​I'm always juggling money to make things work. But it's a beautiful ride. I mean you get to be creative, you get to learn how to do things differently," he says. 

​Creative solutions not always a hit

While Fennell rethinks some of his business practices, Carolina Lopez is retreating to normal solutions such as raising prices in her restaurant and no longer bringing on seasonal employees. 

Lopez owns Minas Brazilian Steakhouse and she says it's no single increase that has her worried, it's the number of changes all coming her way at once. 

"We as owners, employees, customers, we all work together to keep the places that we love alive," Lopez told CBC News. 

Lopez introduced a "small business support fee" late last year but quickly removed the 4% additional tax on her bills when she faced severe backlash. 

"We may have to consider other increases. But it's just one step at a time, right?" Lopez said.

"We put everything that we have into this. And we've also asked our employees to believe in our dream and they are also putting everything into this, because this is the only job they have."