Nfld. & Labrador

Going cashless and closing dining rooms — local businesses adapt to COVID-19

Some of the measures include restaurants closing dining rooms and not accepting cash or cards.

The measures include closing restaurant dining rooms, not accepting cash

This is Lisa O'Neill's wedding day, seven years ago in South Korea. Her husband Lee and son Dain are also pictured. (Submitted by Lisa O'Neill)

St. John's businesses still feeling the financial hit from January's state of emergency are bracing for the impact of COVID-19, but for many, safety trumps profit.

Canopy Growth's retail cannabis locations in Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba and Saskatchewan will be closing at the end of Tuesday. It said customers in this province will be supported through government-run retail websites.

At the Kimchi & Sushi restaurant in downtown St. John's, owner Lisa O'Neill — who recently finished chemotherapy — knows how important it is for immunocompromised people to take precautions.

"People have to start being more careful or we could have a mess on our hands here. So how do we do that?" O'Neill said. "I think it's a time we can't think about making a profit."

O'Neill closed the dining room, and the restaurant is now limiting itself to takeout or delivery. They're accepting e-transfers only, as a way to cut down on people handling cash or cards, and they've cut down on the number of people working — to just one person who prepares the food. 

Pickup orders are left on a sanitized table by the main door. 

O'Neill shared all of that information and more in a Facebook post on the weekend, detailing their cleaning methods, the identities of the three employees who will remain at work during this period and what ingredients they could potentially run low on.

"I think these are intimate times that we live in," she said. "And I think transparency is so important."

O'Neill's precautions are not born out of fear; she says she's simply keeping informed on the best practices. She is confident that Newfoundland and Labrador will be an example of how to handle the pandemic well.

"Who's more helpful than Newfoundlanders? We saw that during Snowmageddon," O'Neill said. "So we just have to do it in the beginning now, and not wait until the snow falls or until the virus is here."

"Let's take that same concern that we have for our neighbour before it actually becomes something here."

Social media post detailing the various methods and measures Kimchi and Sushi restaurant are taking to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19. Owner and manager Lisa O'Neill says transparency is important in times like these. (Lisa O'Neill/Facebook)

Kimchi & Sushi is just one of many local businesses attempting to be proactive in limiting the potential spread of COVID-19, and letting their customers know how they're doing it. 

At Adley's Eats there are additional sanitizing efforts are taking place, the dining room is closed, and only two employees will be in at a time.

They'll also deliver to a vehicle instead of making customers come inside to pay.

Owner and manager Paul Roebothan says he's sad to temporarily cut hours, and knows his profits will be down, but like O'Neill, that's not his main concern right now.

"At the end of the day I want my friends, my family, my grandparents, I want them to survive and get through this, just like everybody else," Roebothan said. "What's losing a few dollars to have a lifetime with your family and friends?"

Afiya Altaf, co-owner of Curry Delight in Mount Pearl, told CBC News her restaurant has already been through a struggle, being forced to stay closed during January's states of emergency on the Avalon Peninsula following a record blizzard.

Altaf said they're keeping a close eye on safety measures being used by other restaurants across Canada. She added staff are washing their hands constantly and have increased surface cleaning. 

"We would never do anything that would put anyone at risk," Altaf said. 

"We know it's going to be a tough situation but we're trying to do whatever we can, focus on the family, focus on ourselves and make sure the customer's needs come first."     

Colemans locations in the province will offer their first hour of business each day to high-risk individuals as Canada deals with the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

It's not just restaurants changing the way they do things. Colemans Grocery is making accommodations for some customers, over what marketing vice-president Greg Gill said is concern for high-risk individuals and those who may struggle with crowds.

"For the first hour of every day throughout the run of the week for the foreseeable future, we dedicate that first hour of operations to seniors, persons with disabilities, and those with immunocompromised conditions," Gill said.

Gill said the policy is designed to be easily adopted by Colemans locations across the province, regardless of their hours of operation.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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