Nfld. & Labrador

As COVID-19 cases spike, St. John's-area businesses shift direction — again

An explosion of coronavirus cases in the St. John's metro area has some businesses making the same harsh adjustment they had to nearly a year ago. 

Some agree closures are the right idea, but business owners are feeling the pressure once again

Bella Vista president Dave Young says his business was just getting back on its feet when it was forced to close again under new public health restrictions. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

An explosion of coronavirus cases in the St. John's metro area has some businesses making the same harsh adjustment they had to nearly a year ago.

Some, such as restaurants, have shifted to delivery, takeout and curbside pickup. Others, such as bars and performance spaces, have been forced to shut completely. 

The Bella Vista, an events venue in St. John's, was just starting to turn the page on a disastrous 2020, president Dave Young told CBC News on Thursday.

Live entertainment — but no dancing — and the venue's own catering company made for a good night out, said Young. After being closed for nearly all of 2020, including during a tough holiday season, the club was starting to gain some momentum in January by offering dinner and a show, at reduced capacity.

"We were just starting to reap the rewards from it and bang, COVID struck again," Young said. "We've got some great entertainment lined up but we're dead in the water."

The Bella Vista in St. John's wont have any income during its shutdown, says Young. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

It's unknown how long the restrictions will be in place this time around, but Young said the entertainment industry can only handle so much. 

About 30 employees are out of a job at the Bella Vista and once again relying on federal emergency benefits. 

"Thank God they can take advantage of CERB and other programs that are being offered by government," Young said. 

Another year, another shutdown 

Those feelings are shared at Bannerman Brewing Co. 

Owner Phil Maloney told CBC News only a handful of employees are still on the job out of about 50 since COVID-19 measures we reissued Wednesday. 

"It's such a bummer for staff. I feel terrible. I wish there was a way to keep everybody on," Maloney said.

"We need to keep it as lean as possible to be able to get through this."

Phil Maloney, owner of Bannerman Brewing Co., says closing businesses for now is the right thing to do. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

In Bannerman's case there's still a little cash flow. Starting Friday the brew pub will continue dishing out coffee, baked goods and food on a take-out basis. 

Maloney said the company is also working to secure a canning line for its craft beer, the main draw for its customers. 

Maloney said closing businesses is the right move, and he's keeping his spirits high despite the closure. He also had some kind words for Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, who has been at the forefront of the province's pandemic response. 

"She should never have to buy a drink for the rest of her life. She's doing such a good job, she's stressed to the gills, it's all perspective," Maloney said. 

"It really sucks that we've got to close. [But] it could be worse. We're all still healthy and safe and we're going to be fine." 

Young echoed Maloney's comments, and is determined to bounce back despite there being no income available for the Bella Vista while shut down. 

"Newfoundlanders, we're extremely resilient like this old club is," he said. "We will get through this."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Terry Roberts

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