By Lisa Gervais

With Quebec ordering movie theatres to close, Highlands Cinemas owner Keith Stata is worried about the future of his Kinmount-based business.

“Theatres will probably be mandated to close, it happened [Sunday] in Quebec,” Stata said.

He added that even if he is permitted to open “people are not going to go out. Then Hollywood is busy moving films into the fall or next year. If you do open, what will you run? Let’s say you have one customer who comes in and is diagnosed with Covid-19, then you are in for an expensive cleaning, staff will be quarantined for 14 days.”

He is also worried the crisis could extend into September and does not know how he will make ends meet.

“I have taxes, mortgage, and the Insurance is $17,000 a year. Not to mention 42 cats.”

Stata said he’s far from alone in his concerns since our area relies so heavily on seasonal tourists.

Already, he said business this past weekend plummeted as people are not going out.

“We are in a tourist economy. If this goes on as long as I think it will, how will resorts, motels, restaurants, hockey camps, summer camps, bars, and movie theatres do without customers, or shuttered during the short time they need to make money to get through the winter?

Stata says he hopes the government has deep pockets, and is prepared to bail out the Country “because this will touch every segment of the population, and every business. How can all these businesses pay their expenses without an income, and seasonal ones will get hit the hardest if they miss their season.”

The Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce, which has 270 members, has postponed its April, May and June events, including the annual business and community achievement awards.

“With recent announcements around school, camp and event cancellations, there was a recognition that this will have significant impact on our membership and our local productivity in the coming weeks,” executive director Jennifer Locke said March 13.

The Chamber remains open for business, but is encouraging people to email and call, versus in-person meetings.

She also encouraged the public not to panic, but follow the advice of health care professionals.

“The Chamber … wants to underscore the impact that wide-spread panic could have on our local economy and encourage members of the public to heed the advice of our public health authorities for the most appropriate precautions. The Chamber wishes to keep our community, volunteers and staff safe while supporting our local enterprises and businesses.”

So far, very few businesses have closed in the Highlands. However, many say they are taking precautions against the spread of the coronavirus. Many employees are also working from home.

Harmony Yoga Haliburton announced over the weekend that it is temporarily closing its doors.

Amanda Rico said on her businesses’ Facebook page, “as COVID-19 spreads and is now officially a pandemic, we are taking additional safety measures to protect our community, students, and teachers. The scale of impact is still unknown, and we want to do our part to protect our community … We believe this is the right and socially responsible thing to do in this difficult and unpredictable time.”

John Teljeur, of the Pinestone Resort and Conference Centre, said like most businesses, he expects accommodators will feel a hit. He added though he wants the resort to stay open and continue providing employment, management is prepared to close.

“If there was a documented case in this area, or God forbid, a documented case that involved a staff member or somebody visiting our place, at that point in time we’d have to be prepared to shut down,” he said.

“We’re trying to be ready for every scenario possible but there are so many variables at play, it’s really hard to say what’s going to happen next.”

(With files from Joseph Quigley)

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