COVID-19 social distancing hits restaurants hard

With people staying home and regulations ordering lower capacities for some larger spaces, restaurants in Calgary are being hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many businesses are feeling the impact of COVID-19, but bars and restaurants more than others

Calgary Chamber CEO Sandip Lalli says they're hearing every day from businesses impacted by COVID-19. (Audrey Neveu/CBC)

With people staying home and regulations ordering lower capacities for some larger spaces, restaurants in Calgary are being hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Calgary Chamber of Commerce President Sandip Lalli says while the measures put in place like working from home where possible and avoiding large gatherings are prudent, there is no doubt it's costing local businesses.

She says they are hearing daily from affected businesses. 

"There's a tremendous impact, a long-term impact to the structure of our economy. And that's what we're hearing from businesses owners is they want to know, what next? They're really looking for where is the baseline, where is the foundation for how we move forward?" says Lalli.


While nearly every industry has been impacted in one way or another, Lalli acknowledges hospitality businesses are feeling the pinch more than some others right now. 

"The restaurants and bars, the tourism industry, our professional services ... anything that required a gathering. So it's a redefinition now for them to say how do we service our customers and how do we have exchange of commerce?"

Some are choosing to do as Lalli suggests, and are re-evaluating how they do business.

In some cases restaurants are staying afloat doing take-out orders only and will resume dine-in when it's safe. Others have closed completely to help slow the spread of the virus, and because empty eateries are expensive to operate.

A Calgary institution

Calgary's Ship and Anchor is a mainstay along 17th Avenue, and an always-popular St. Paddy's Day party spot. This year the Ship won't be serving up green beer.

In a post to its website and social channels the bar says:

"The health, safety and well-being of our staff, customers and community is our top priority and we are making decisions during this public health emergency with that in mind," reads a post on The Ship's website. 

"To this end we have decided to take actions beyond the requirements mandated by the various levels of government and temporarily close The Ship."

The statement goes on to say the situation will be monitored closely as the establishment considers under what conditions it will re-open.

Weathering the storm

Harry Dimitriadis with Jameson's Irish Pub says many establishments simply can't afford to heat and keep the lights on in near-empty pubs and restaurants.

"Especially downtown, I think you are going to see a ton of closures. I've been getting text messages and emails almost hourly of establishments closing," he said.

Dimitriadis says he and his team are assessing the situation several times a day and he knows things could change, but for now, his pubs are open.

"Staying open right now is more expensive. That said you want to take care of the people who need to get out of the house and you also want to try and take care of your staff," says Dimitriadis.

He worries smaller businesses won't be able to hang on long enough to see the industry recover, and will end up closing their doors for good.


Elissa Carpenter is a reporter with CBC Calgary.


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