New Brunswick

Business groups put together a list of resources to help companies reopen

With so many businesses now facing the prospect of imminent opening, certain products are in high demand, says Krista Ross, the CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce. 

Saint John group offers grant to help cover cost of PPE and BPP

New Brunswick businesses must follow all of the guidelines set out by the province before they can open. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

With so many businesses now facing the prospect of opening their doors again, certain products needed to do that are in high demand, says Krista Ross, the CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce. 

And Ross said many business owners don't know where to find the items required for the government's next phase of recovery, because they've never needed them. 

Things like hundreds of masks, or a huge supply of hand sanitizer. Or directional floor decals and Plexiglas dividers?

"There seemed to be a challenge to find where those products were available," explained Ross. "So we reach out to our members and to other businesses in our community and asked them to provide us with information if they have those products available."

Krista Ross, CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, says airports, including Fredericton International, are "in a difficult time right now, but we see that as a temporary situation." (Submitted by Krista Ross)

Ross said the list of who's open and who can provide needed equipment has been a valuable tool for businesses "on both sides of the equation." 

In some cases, she pointed out, businesses are carrying or manufacturing completely new items and people wouldn't normally think to look to them for it. For example, a company that normally makes dress shirts pivoting to produce face masks. Or a pool company selling hand sanitizer. 

"So it helps them to be able to find markets for the products," said Ross. 

"There's just so many businesses on there that have listed their products, and our members are saying they're very appreciative because they simply didn't know where to find these products having not had to have them before," said Ross. 

"Lots of businesses have taken the opportunity to pivot and to figure out what products they can bring in and how they can help the rest of the business community with these types of things."

And few companies would have budgeted for such additional items, said Nancy Tissington, the executive director of Uptown Saint John. 

Nancy Tissington, of Uptown Saint John, said the response to the group's new business grant has been "phenomenal." (Submitted by Nancy Tissington)

That's why the business improvement association decided to come up with a grant program to help its members get back on their feet, while adhering to all of the safety protocols. 

It's a one-time grant of up to $500 that is intended to help pay for masks, hand sanitizers, Plexiglas shields, floor decals, signs — anything that is required for them to open. 

Tissington said the reaction has been "phenomenal." Within the first hour, she received 18 applications.

"There's obviously a real need here," she said. 

One of the businesses that applied for the grant was Cask & Kettle, an Irish gastropub located on Prince William Street. 

"It's not a lot, but it'll help because there's so many costs to reopening right now … every little bit helps," said co-owner Shawn Verner. 

Uptown Saint John is offering a one-time grant to help its members cover COVID-19-related reopening costs. (Facebook)

Cask & Kettle initially closed in March and donated all of its perishable food to local charities, but by early April, Verner and co-owner, Mike McPartland, decided to reopen.

Verner said it's been busier than they had expected. 

He said their streetfront window provided the perfect takeout setup. All business is done through the open window and no one sets foot inside. 

Verner said he's not in any rush to take things to the next level. The gastropub will continue to do business through its front window while he and his staff ensure they're able to satisfy all of the province's guidelines for reopening. 

"We're going to take our time, meet with our management staff and just make sure we can do it as safe as possible," said Verner. 

At the moment, he said there are just too many unknowns. One of the biggest is whether enough people will actually want to dine in. 

"We really have no idea if people are ready to come out in enough numbers to make it viable. So, we're in no rush. We're going to make sure we do it right," said Verner. 

By the end of the business day on Monday, Tissington said 36 businesses had applied for the grant. 

While paying for the equipment is one thing, finding it has been another common problem, she said. With so many people looking for the same things, it isn't always easy. 

"And, of course, that could prohibit some from opening," Tissington said, since the province has promised to do spot checks to ensure businesses are complying with all of the rules. 

What does a business need to reopen?

Before reopening, workplaces must develop an operational plan for how daily operations will be handled to meet Public Health measures, including physical distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, screening for symptoms, cleaning and disinfecting practices, signage, facial coverings and enforcement.

The plan must be written, implemented and on hand for review at all times.

Saint John resources

Tissington said Uptown Saint John is working with the Saint John Regional Chamber of Commerce to help businesses find resources — similar to what the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce has created. 

"We're not seeing a rush of openings right now because they're still trying to compile all of these items," she said. 

Reopening isn't as simple as unlocking the door and turning around the "open" sign. 

"The premier spoke about that," said Tissington. "He said, 'in their own time,' and that's exactly what it is. It's in their own time, as they need to open and to feel comfortable. 

"Some may not be able to have the extra staff to monitor their doors to count the amount of people coming in, so they may continue to keep doing their curbside pickup because that's working for them."

Tissington said if the interest in the grant continues, she will return to the board and ask to expand the program.

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