Nova Scotia restaurant, bar owners prepare for COVID-19 shutdown
Province says all bars must close by Thursday
On what is usually one of the busiest days of the year for an Irish pub, Mike Casey was preparing to switch off the lights and lock the doors to his business for the foreseeable future.
Casey, the owner of Finbar's Irish Pub, which has locations in Dartmouth, N.S., and Bedford, N.S., closed on St. Patrick's Day as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to spread across Nova Scotia and around the globe.
Casey made the decision on his own accord a few days ago as health officials stressed recommendations for social distancing. He said he anticipated a government order to close would be coming anyway, and by Tuesday afternoon, his hunch was validated.
Premier Stephen McNeil announced new restrictions on the food and beverage industry after health officials announced two more presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.
Since Sunday, a total of seven presumed cases have been detected, and one of those has since been confirmed by the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
McNeil said all bars would have to close by 12:01 a.m. AT Thursday. Restaurants would be restricted to takeout and delivery only, and the NSLC would start operating on reduced hours.
"We feel very fortunate that Finbar's in particular is poised to survive it in the long run," Casey said.
"When it's over, we'll be back in action easily. But in the meantime, you have to do what you gotta do."
The shutdown process
Shutting down isn't a simple task. Craig Flinn, chef and owner of Chives Canadian Bistro and 2 Doors Down, both in downtown Halifax, said he was busy unplugging beer taps, cleaning fridges and delivering perishables to food banks.
Flinn said his restaurants aren't usual takeout spots, so he decided not to use that option. Plus, he found there was an "increasing level of discomfort" among staff and patrons.
"Things have taken a huge shift in the last 24 to 48 hours ... and the public safety and the safety of the staff have to trump all other decisions for me," said Flinn.
The restaurant industry operates with notoriously tight financial margins, but Flinn said he has faith in government and financial institutions to help businesses get up and running again when the pandemic has passed.
In the meantime, Flinn said he "feels terrible" for his staff who will be out of work.
The federal government is expected to announce a multibillion dollar relief package on Wednesday, including relief for workers through employment insurance.
Patrick Sullivan, CEO of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, said every level of government can help with COVID-19 relief.
"We're looking for credit for those businesses, we're looking for infrastructure, we're looking for delays on payments that are required," Sullivan said.
With files from Preston Mulligan