Saskatoon

Saskatoon businesses voluntarily enacting their own pandemic measures

Frustrated with what they say is an inadequate government response, two Saskatoon businesses are taking pandemic measures into their own hands.

Broadway Theatre reducing capacity, Turning the Tide bookstore offering curbside pickup and delivery only

Broadway Theatre's Kirby Wirchenko says he doesn’t expect the theatre to see a healthy fiscal quarter until 2022. (Brian Rodgers/CBC)

Frustrated with what they say is an inadequate government response, two Saskatoon businesses are taking pandemic measures into their own hands.

Broadway Theatre has reduced its capacity to 30 people — down from about 110 allowed under current recommendations — and the Turning the Tide bookstore is going back to curbside pickup and delivery only, like it did at the beginning of the pandemic.

Turning the Tide owner Peter Garden said he hopes the move inspires other businesses to do the same.

"We're just looking at the kind of measures that the government is putting in place and really feeling that those were inadequate and that it was time for us as a business to take some leadership around the issue," Garden said.

he Saskatchewan government announced new COVID-19 measures last week and more measures were announced Tuesday afternoon.

Garden said his bookstore has seen a bump in business since making the change, which he said should be encouraging to other businesses considering making a similar move.

"We've received very positive feedback from the public and from our customers," he said. "Businesses ... that make these announcements and take these kinds of initiatives and advertise them on social media, I think they're going to find a lot of support from the public."

Garden said he recognizes not all businesses are in the position to enact their own pandemic measures, which is why he would like to see more government support. He specifically suggested grants to help businesses build e-commerce websites.

He also encouraged the public to support businesses taking extra measures.

"In general, support local business for sure over the holiday season, like you've never done before. We really need your support," he said. "I think we can do this together as a community."

'The socially and civically responsible thing to do'

Broadway Theatre's executive and artistic director Kirby Wirchenko said the current government recommendations aren't reflecting the reality of the COVID-19 situation.

The theatre has been operating at about 22 per cent of its normal capacity, but that still means the Broadway can host about 110 people.

"When our case counts are seven, eight, 10 times higher than they were a few weeks ago and way higher than anything we ever experienced in spring, it feels like the socially and civically responsible thing to do, to not give people an opportunity to gather 100-plus people at a time."

He said the theatre has been careful about following all of the provincial recommendations and enforced mandatory masks even before the province mandated it.

"We wanted our staff and our patrons and our volunteers to all feel safe," he said. 

"Similarly, even though this is not required by the rules of the province, I don't think we'll ever regret going a little harder than what the requirements make of us."

The theatre recently completed a fundraiser to help with operating costs as pandemic measures continue. Wirchenko said the fundraiser was successful, but he still doesn't expect the theatre to see a healthy fiscal quarter until 2022.

"We were a multi-million dollar operation up until March, and I want to be again, but I need my staff to stay healthy. I need to stay healthy. I need my patrons to not begrudge us because we got their cousins sick."

About the Author

Ashleigh Mattern is a reporter and copy editor with CBC Saskatoon and CBC Saskatchewan, and an associate producer with Saskatoon Morning. She has been working as a journalist since 2007 and joined CBC in 2017. Email: ashleigh.mattern@cbc.ca.

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