Quebec's Christmas shutdown another blow for Gatineau businesses
'We were hoping for a better start in 2021,' says hairstylist Stéphane Drouin
Some business owners and advocates in western Quebec fear the coming provincewide shutdown will deal another blow to local retailers that were already struggling to survive the pandemic.
On Tuesday, Quebec Premier François Legault announced a two-week closure of non-essential businesses, from Christmas Day to Jan. 11, to slow the spread of COVID-19. Grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, banks and pet stores will remain open, but big box stores like Walmart will be restricted to selling only essential goods such as groceries and pharmacy products.
Between Dec. 17 and Jan. 11, the province's yellow zones will be upgraded to orange, and orange zones to red — the highest alert level — with indoor dining, gyms, museums and theatres shutting down as a result. Gatineau and other parts of the Outaouais are already red zones, but the shutdown starting Christmas Day will impose further restrictions on the region.
Barbershops and hair salons are included in the two-week closure. Stéphane Drouin, a hairstylist in Gatineau, said he's concerned about that.
"Once again, small businesses will [have to] cope with the money not flowing in," he said. "We were hoping for a better start in 2021."
Drouin said December is normally the busiest time of year for his salon.
"It's not only a money thing," he said. "It's taking care of our people.... It's a long-term relationship we have with them."
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'Turbulent' time for businesses
The shutdown will essentially cancel Boxing Day shopping, and Nicolas D'Aoust, vice-president of the Gatineau Chamber of Commerce, said that could damage the city's economy.
"This is a very turbulent period," said D'Aoust. "We expect in the coming months necessary closures, bankruptcies of different businesses — so that means ultimately that it's job losses in the region."
D'Aoust said people should support local businesses by purchasing as much as possible from them before Christmas.
"These businesses rely on those sales in order to survive, and the co-operation from the population will definitely go a long way."
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School break extended
Schools in the province won't reopen on Jan. 4 as originally planned, but Legault said school boards across the province will supply students with homework and some level of remote learning. All students should be back in class Jan. 11.
Kim Boucher, a parent of elementary-age children in Gatineau, welcomes the news.
"I am relieved by it. I think it's the right thing to do [because] the numbers are going up," said Boucher. "I feel like the holiday is going to be the most dangerous time of the year."
But Boucher noted her son has missed about five weeks of school this year due to health precautions, and thinks the 2021 school year will be similar.
"It feels a bit like a yo-yo," she said. "I feel like that's going to happen again."
With files from Stu Mills