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'Uncharted territory' : Restaurant and tourism industries struggle during COVID-19 pandemic

The restaurant industry employs 7 per cent of the province's workforce and supports local farmers and fishers
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(stock photo)

March 17 has always been a special day in Halifax.

Bleary-eyed patrons dressed head-to-toe in green shamrock-covered clothing arrive at their favourite Irish pubs before sunrise to wait in line for an early opening so they can enjoy breakfast and a St. Patrick's Day pint.

This year, the situation is vastly different.

As businesses grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, many establishments have fewer tables so they can practise social distancing and/or reduced hours of operation. Some are only serving take-out/delivery, others are shut down entirely.

Luc Erjavec, the vice-president in Atlantic Canada for Restaurants Canada, said this is uncharted territory.  But he told NEWS 95.7's The Rick Howe Show his industry will do its part by working with public health officials and following their recommendations, despite the dramatic impact on business.

"Some restauranteurs believe they can weather the storm for longer if they shut down because there just isn't the traffic that we had even a week ago," he told NEWS 95.7's The Rick Howe Show. 

"I'm hearing over the weekend, anywhere between a 50 and 70 per cent decline in sales in many establishments."

The restaurant industry employs 7 per cent of the province's workforce and supports local farmers and fishers.

"If you can somehow support these restaurants, if you don't feel comfortable going in, do a takeout order, do a delivery order. Work with them because they're essential to the infrastructure to the province," Erjavec said.

Nova Scotia's tourism industry is also feeling the pinch of restrictions as flights and cruises get cancelled.

The president of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia, Darlene Grant Fiander, said there have already been layoffs and students may have a difficult time finding summer jobs.

She added many businesses are in danger of going under.

"Things will come around, but the short term impact will be significant," she said.

She said government assistance will be vital to her industry's recovery.

"How do we do things to make sure businesses survive and can operate, pay their mortgages and rebuild, that's the kind of thoughtful approach we need to take."

Grant Fiander stressed health needs to be the priority right now and the more we do to limit the spread of the virus, the sooner we can all bounce back.

Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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