Saskatchewan

More Sask. restaurants expected to close for good as pandemic, reopening costs rise

Restaurants in Saskatchewan will be allowed to open June 8, but some say they might not be able to.

Regina's 20 Ten Eatery says reopening June 8 at a lower capacity won't be financially viable

Owner of 20 Ten Eatery, Steve Kosabek, says his restaurant won't open June 8 because it won't be financially viable with the capacity restrictions and decreased traffic in downtown Regina. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Restaurants in Saskatchewan will be allowed to open June 8, but some say they might not be able to.

All restaurants and bars in the province have been closed since mid-March due to COVID-19. 

Some stayed open for takeout and delivery, but others had to throw out food supplies and wait. 

That was the case for 20 Ten Eatery, which offers fine dining in downtown Regina. The business was already up for sale, and the pandemic has caused more financial strain. 

Owner Steve Kosabek said the restaurant was broken into early Thursday morning. He said about $2,000 worth of alcohol was stolen and he is filing a police report.

"You're trying to pay bills, and you're trying to keep your head above water, and then this gets thrown at you," said Kosabek. "It's just another thing to deal with. The plate just keeps piling up." 

Kosabek said he won't be opening June 8 and is unsure if the business will survive everything it's been hit with. 

Kosabek says his restaurant was also broken into while it was closed due to the pandemic. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

He said because the restaurant can only be at half capacity, and because social distancing has to be maintained, he could only allow 15 customers at a time if he does reopen.

And because so many people are working from home, he said the number of people downtown has decreased by 90 per cent. He expects that to nearly eliminate the lunch rush. 

"We still have our bills to pay. We still have a rent to pay. We still have our energy to pay. We still have our food costs and the employees to pay," said Kosabek. "There's still a lot of cost out there that's involved in the restaurant. 

"And if you don't have the money coming in, then how long can you survive?"

He said he won't try to reopen until restrictions would allow a financially viable situation. 

Other restaurants have already made the decision to close permanently. 

Tony Roma's in Regina announced they won't be reopening at all on their Facebook page. The restaurant has been in business for 20 years. 

Daisy's Restaurant and Lounge, which has been open in Saskatoon for 30 years, is following suit. 

Jim Bence, president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association, said he has been notified of new closures almost every day. 

He said one of the biggest struggles for restaurants right now is paying rent. 

"How do they manage their costs when there's no money coming in? They still have payments to make," he said. "So you know that that idea of an eviction or having equipment seized it keeps a lot of people up at night."

Bence said the restaurant industry already has slim margins. He said many businesses were already scraping by before COVID-19 came along. He said June, July and August, as restaurants gauge demand and income, will be telling.

Bence said the restaurant landscape could shift greatly across the province. While businesses may be 50 per cent full on Fridays and Saturdays, he expects the rest of the week to be closer to 15 per cent. 

"This will be a tipping point for many operators," he said. "The decision to go forward, when to go forward, or to simply close permanently.

"I think that we're going to see a number of permanent closures, which is terrible."

A closed noticed hangs in the door of Regina's Capitol Restaurant and Cocktail Bar. Tim Rogers says the pandemic was "the last straw." (Matt Howard/CBC)

Bence said a survey by his organization found that 70 per cent of restaurant owners have considered closing for good or are already planning to. 

Tim Rogers made the call to do just that when restaurants were first mandated to close. His restaurant The Capitol shut its doors after five years. He also is part owner of The Lancaster Taphouse in Regina, which he said will be reopening at some point. 

He doesn't expect that will be on June 8 though, and said reducing the capacity to 50 per cent might not bring enough customers to pay the bills. 

He also said that inventory costs will be in the thousands. 

"Reopening is almost as hard as opening from scratch which is never an easy thing," he said. "We're certainly not going to come back to a situation where we're going to be making any kind of money this summer."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex Soloducha is a reporter, social media producer and digital producer for CBC Saskatchewan. She was part of a team that won a Canadian RTDNA award for a digital COVID-19 Kids Q&A. She can be reached at alex.soloducha@cbc.ca and follow on TikTok @cbcsasknews.

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