Nova Scotia

Association calls for Halifax restaurants and bars to close amid COVID-19 spread

The Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia is calling for restaurants and bars in the Halifax area to close to dine-in customers for at least the next two weeks.

Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia urging Public Health to mandate closures

Many restaurants around HRM have already elected to close because of the recent spike in cases of COVID-19. (CBC)

The Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia is calling for all restaurants and bars in Halifax to close to dine-in customers for at least the next two weeks because of rising COVID-19 case numbers in the area.

Gordon Stewart, executive director of RANS, said the association's board of directors held an emergency meeting Monday night and decided unanimously to make the closure recommendation to its members and to Public Health.

Restaurants and bars have been a significant site of COVID-19 transmission in Nova Scotia over the past two weeks, and Stewart said consumer confidence has been "wiped out."

"It really has hurt. Business has taken a sharp decline. But it's more than that — it's that we're scared that the spread gets so bad that we end up like some of the western provinces right now," Stewart told CBC's Information Morning, referring to Manitoba and Alberta, which are experiencing overwhelming coronavirus surges. 

Stewart said he'll leave it to the provincial government to decide what geographical area to shut down, based on the current epidemiology. But he expects it to encompass downtown Halifax, which has been the epicentre of the province's current outbreak of the coronavirus.

Public Health has not yet endorsed the RANS recommendation. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang and Premier Stephen McNeil are scheduled to hold a COVID-19 briefing at 3 p.m. today.  

Stewart said the closure recommendation is focused on "full-service" restaurants. He said he supports restaurants in hotels staying open for hotel guests only, and coffee shops staying open for take-out. 

The recommendations are not meant for the rest of the province, outside HRM.

Stewart said closing will bring "a lot of repercussions for operators" but he expects it to be effective in slowing the spread of the second wave of COVID-19.

"It's really not about the economy now. It's really about the health and the long-term outlook of our communities," Stewart said.

Over the past few days, many Halifax-area restaurants and bars have already decided to close — some as a precaution and others because of possible COVID-19 exposures on the premises.

Brendan Doherty, co-owner of the Old Triangle Irish alehouse, says a government-mandated shut-down would help his business, and others, access additional rent relief from Ottawa. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Among them is The Old Triangle, where owners closed voluntarily on Monday, only to learn a few hours later that they were in fact the site of a possible exposure.

"Honestly I think it's the right move," said Old Triangle co-owner Brendan Doherty of the RANS recommendation.

"We are at a bit of a tipping point so it does make sense to take at least two weeks ... to just kind of get reset and get back to where we've been."

"We've been very fortunate [inside the Atlantic bubble] ... and it'd be nice to go back to that as soon as possible."

Doherty said a government-mandated shut-down would help his business, and others, because it would allow them to access additional rent relief through federal programs.

"It's all about cost-saving during a shut down, and rent is the biggest cost we do incur."

As COVID-19 cases rise, some restaurants and bars are going beyond the current restrictions to keep staff and the public safe, and the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia is urging Public Health to mandate the closures. 8:19

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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