Grand Forks’ restaurateurs are holding their own amid the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions.
In conversations with MLA Roly Russell Friday morning, May 14, the owners of two downtown cafés and a bar said they are adapting to the pandemic with the help of provincial government grants.
Roger Soviskov, owner of Jogas Espresso, said he’d applied for Victoria’s Circuit Breaker Recovery Grant after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry suspended indoor dining in March. So did Wooden Spoon owner Kayla Sebastian and Clyde’s Pub owners Steve and Patti Young. The grant money is earmarked for COVID-safety upgrades like hygenic seat coverings, laminated menus and dishwashers, they said.
The closure of the Canada-U.S. border has generally buoyed local patronage, Russell heard.
Several business owners said they’d had trouble keeping staff after the federal government offered the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) to workers last spring. Some staff members quit after being asked to wear face masks. Other staff members had to take time off work to quarantine following potential COVID exposures.
Some of the owners had turned away customers who refused to respect social distancing guidelines.
The hospitality industry then faced steep increases in food costs last winter. Sebastian said the price of tomatoes — a stock ingredient in burgers and sandwiches — shot up from $30 for 25 lbs to almost $90 for the same amount last winter.
Sebastian and the Youngs said they were able to recoup lost business during the spring 2020 shutdown by ramping up take-out service.
“It kept us going,” Patti Young said.
Clyde’s is hoping to extend their sidewalk patio after their city permit lapses on May 25.
“It’s our way of letting people know we’re part of the downtown core,” she told The Gazette.
Russell said Friday’s conversations were “helpful for me to hear.”
“It’s about having local stories to share with government ministers, or whomever,” he said.
Russell also spoke with the owners at the Humble Fit Collective. He said he plans to speak with business owners in the West Boundary soon.
New COVID recovery benefits are available to eligible workers until September, according to the Government of Canada’s website.