Retailers, restaurants working to ride out another lockdown

Island restaurants and retail owners are willing to tough it out once again, but warn some Island companies may not survive

Some business owners are starting to talk about long-term, permanent effects

Retailers and restaurants are waiting out another circuit breaker. Some have laid off staff. Some continue to pay wages. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Island restaurants and retail owners are willing to tough it out once again as the province enters another shutdown, but warning signs are beginning to appear that some Island companies may not survive.

On Sunday, the province announced a 72-hour circuit breaker that left non-essential businesses closed or limited.

One of Charlottetown's long-standing retailers is again seeing signs of distress in local businesses.

"I think you're going to see some stores closed for the long-term over this," said Joseph Dow, owner of Dow's Fashions on Great George Street. "The longer this lingers on, the harder it gets."

Dow is a second-generation merchant in Charlottetown, now running the men's fashion store his father started in 1962. He's offering online shopping, but looking out the store's front window, he sees plenty of empty parking spaces.

Joseph Dow continues to pay his staff during the 72-hour shut down, even though the store is closed. Some of them have been with the company 20 years or more.  (Shane Ross/CBC)

"Be nice to see the restaurants busier and more traffic downtown for sure," said Dow.

Restaurants are once again laying off staff, having been ordered to close their dining rooms and offer takeout or delivery service only.

Red Island Hospitality, which runs several downtown eateries and pubs, has laid off dozens of staff.

"It's pretty tough," said Jeff Sinnott, co-owner. "The reality is we just can't use everybody for a limited amount of work."

Jeff Sinnott readies a floor for refinishing inside Hunter's Ale House. The restaurant is down to a skeleton staff, and its owners are doing maintenance during the shutdown. (Hunter's Ale House)

Monday morning, Sinnott was sanding the hardwood floor in one of his restaurants, getting it ready to be varnished and refinished during the shutdown. Just three staff were on duty, of the 12 to 15 who would normally be at work.

Sinnott estimates business has dropped 80 per cent as a result of closing all dining rooms and offering takeout only. He said the slide started even before Sunday's announcement by the government.

"Even on Saturday, we had quite a few reservations cancelled. There is fear out there," said Sinnott.

Provincial support announced

The province is relaunching P.E.I.'s emergency payment for workers program as of Tuesday.

Islanders who have lost their incomes or had their hours reduced by 12 hours a week between Feb. 28 and March 14 because of new COVID-19 restrictions are eligible for $500 in help from the provincial government.

It is what it is.— Joseph Dow, Dow's Fashions

The province is also relaunching $100 grocery gift cards for workers laid off from Feb. 28 to March 14, and rolling out a $1-million fund for Islanders who must take time off work due to illness and don't have paid sick leave.

Dow continues to pay his staff during the 72-hour shut down, even though the store is closed. Some of them have been with the company 20 years or more. 

"And you know, they count on their wages. So for the next little bit, yeah, I will be paying them," said Dow. 

"Look, I didn't think it would happen again, but it is what it is," said Dow. "And it can change in a heartbeat."

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