Saskatchewan

Many Sask. restaurants might permanently close due to COVID-19

Many Saskatchewan restaurants have temporarily closed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether they'll be able to reopen when restrictions are lifted remains uncertain.

Owner of two Regina restaurants says business is down 90%

Tony Yang owns both Tipsy Samurai and Wann Izakaya in Regina. Wann is still open for takeout and delivery, but Yang said business is down between 80 and 90 per cent. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

Many Saskatchewan restaurants have temporarily closed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether they'll be able to reopen when restrictions are lifted remains uncertain.

The province suspended all dine-in service in March, forcing some restaurants to go takeout-only, while others shuttered — some temporarily, some permanently.

Tony Yang owns both Tipsy Samurai and Wann Izakaya in Regina. Wann is still open for takeout and delivery, but he said business is down between 80 and 90 per cent.

"Basically what we're doing right now in one week is what we'd normally do in two, three days," said Yang. "Moneywise, it's really tight right now. We have to cut a lot of costs. We have to try to save every penny we can."

Tipsy Samurai, a newer Japanese gastropub in the city's east end has shut down all business during the pandemic. Yang hopes it will reopen someday, but he said he's not sure if that will be possible. 

He said about 25 employees have been laid off between both locations and some of his kitchen employees are now working as delivery drivers.

Tipsy Samurai in Regina's east end is currently closed and may not be able to reopen after the pandemic. (Allan Pulga)

With last month's income, Yang said Wann is just breaking even. He has pushed some bills and is working every day to cut down on labour costs. 

He said he's staying afloat through government subsidies and a break on rent. 

"It's just really hard for a small business like me to make any profit anymore. Basically we're in survival mode right now."

Dining in will be allowed in phase three of the province's reopen plan, but restaurants will only be allowed to operate at half capacity. The date for that phase is not yet set and is dependent on the success of the first two phases. 

Yang said 50 per cent won't allow for enough customers to make a typical profit, and without help from the government and his landlords, he might be worse off. He said he would still need almost a full staff and would have to limit people's dine-in time. 

While Tipsy Samurai is closed, you can get its menu items through pickup or delivery from Wann Izakaya. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

John Hopkins, CEO of the Regina & District Chamber of Commerce, said it's not surprising that some businesses won't survive the pandemic. 

"This is a very, very serious challenge that we face economically in this country. We have a health challenge and, no question about it, health is number one, but the economic challenge is enormous in this country and we're seeing the impact of that now."

Restaurants Canada says Saskatchewan establishments are set to lose up to $450 million this quarter. The non-profit organization recently surveyed restaurants in Western Canada and found that about 70 per cent of owners fear they will not be able to pay rent or supplier costs in the next three months. 

Restaurants Canada said Saskatchewan's $2.4 billion food service industry prior to COVID-19 represented three per cent of the province's GDP and was the third-largest private sector employer. 

Twenty-five thousand jobs have been lost in Saskatchewan's food service industry due to the pandemic, it said. 

Yang said he hopes local business owners receive more support going forward, both from the government and customers. 

"I hope everything goes back to normal, like the way it was before," Yang said. "But I know that's maybe a long way to go."

About the Author

Alex Soloducha is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan.

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