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Lockdown nachos! The ultimate group pub food, now a take-out treat for five people max. IAN SELIG

Lockdown nachos! The ultimate group pub food, now a take-out treat for five people max. IAN SELIG

Halifax restaurants better prepped for third shutdown 

Websites are up, contactless delivery is in place and we're all hopeful the latest lockdown won’t last.

Today, Halifax restaurants didn’t set any tables lunch. They aren’t open for after-work drinks on Friday, and they won’t be taking reservations for weekend brunch either. That’s right, for the third time since the pandemic began 13 months ago, Halifax-area restaurants are closed to dine-in service.

“After talking with my team about the cases they were investigating it is clear that strong measures at this time is an absolute necessity,” said top doc Robert Strang yesterday at an impromptu COVID-19 briefing.

The news was a surprise for many restaurants, which had gotten correspondence from the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia just hours earlier, indicating the province was going to respond to the surge in cases by imposing a 50 percent capacity limit.
click to enlarge The email from RANS was a bit off. SUBMITTED
  • The email from RANS was a bit off. SUBMITTED
“We posted that out and we no sooner got it out than of course the next day it went to 39 [cases], and that just was a game-changer,” says Gordon Stewart, RANS executive director. Stewart tells The Coast that he had frequent communication with the government over the past few days, and things changed rapidly.

“It jumped too fast and the modelling showed that it was even going to go higher,” he says on Friday. ”So, when we had a meeting with the government again, they basically informed us we’re going into kind of a semi-shutdown mode and it would be cross-sector, a number of industries involved.”

Stewart says there wasn’t time to warn restaurants, and the short-term problems will mainly be overstock of supplies like fresh produce, meats and other perishables. “In some cases some suppliers were taking back some loads, some have a program of take-out food 50 percent off to kind of cut down inventory as fast as they can,” he says.

Some restaurants remained open for eating in Thursday night, in a last attempt to sell off already-purchased ingredients.
Others shifted exclusively to take-out a day early, out of an abundance of caution.

In yesterday’s update, Strang said the strict regulations would be in place for at least four weeks, until May 20, but RANS says the government will re-assess before then. “We’ve negotiated with the government to have a review at the end of week two and another review at the end of week three,” Stewart says.

But in the meantime, the shutdown means many servers, cooks and other restaurant staff will be laid off. “A lot of new hires are just starting this weekend,” says Stewart. “They’ll get laid off before they’ll officially get hired on, which is unfortunate but that’s what going to happen.”

For those laid off, the CRB benefit still runs until September. For business owners, Stewart says the wage and rent subsidies will run until at least June, and that the province has plans to introduce a new round of the small business impact grant. “We’ll be working with the province to put out a new one-time grant to help out for other costs of businesses because [they'll have] no revenue,” he says.

And while the financial hurdles are undeniable, Halifax restaurants—now on a third shutdown in 13 months—are better prepared in terms of take-out options.

“There’s more support in place when we start the programs. If you look at the first run there was nothing there at all, the second shutdown there wasn’t a lot,” says Stewart. “At least there’s supports in place.”

As they wait out the lockdown, HRM residents are online, telling each other about their favourite take-out spots.
  And encouraging the government to give more support.

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