Businesses across the County are adapting, and facing difficult decisions, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The province declared a state of emergency March 17, forcing the closure of many facilities, including dine-in restaurants. On March 24, it extended the order to non-essential businesses. The situation has resulted in many Haliburton shops closing their doors or making drastic changes to stay open.
McKeck’s Tap and Grill is one of those. Unable to continue its usual dine-in service, owner and chef Aaron Walker said he had to lay off virtually all his staff to help manage overhead costs. The restaurant expanded takeout offerings to stay afloat.
“It’s just unfortunate because I know we had at least four staff that were nearly poised to buy houses this spring,” Walker said. “It goes to show what kind of economic fallout this will have.”
But Walker said takeout is going well so far and he is thankful for the strong community support he has received.
“Without it, we’d be in big trouble,” Walker said. “Without the takeout business, we’d be rapidly sliding into debt.”
But not every dine-in restaurant has made the change. Baked and Battered has closed its doors and is not offering takeout. Co-owner Colby Marcellus said although the province is allowing takeout, the restaurant did not feel comfortable with it.
“Still have to hand off all of our products,” Marcellus said. “Folks are being asked to stay at home and it feels to us that going out for takeout and being out and about in town is probably running contrary to that.”
Marcellus said they also had to make the difficult choice of laying off staff, adding employees would likely be better off accessing employment insurance rather than face a significant reduction of hours.
“They’re very hard choices we have to make, and others are making, in our community,” he said.
Layoffs are hitting a range of businesses. Patient News has had to temporarily lay off 30 staff members due to COVID-19, as its target market of dental offices are closing.
President Karen Galley said they are still in operation with a reduced work force and
will be ready when offices re-open. She added their digital offerings would help them get through the difficult time.
“We will get this virus under control and we will be back to full time employment at the earliest possible date,” Galley said.
Other businesses are turning to online methods to stay operational.
Just Movement Fitness started offering livestreamed classes March 23.
“It’s important to me to keep offering classes because it’s an imperative time to stay healthy and strong,” owner Meghan Reid said. “It’s discouraging that we can’t get together to stay active and healthy in our community but transitioning to online live workouts will still allow us to connect with one another.”
She said the transition to online is challenging but she is thankful her customers have supported her through it.
“I am praying we can all return to ‘normal’ as soon as it’s safe to do so,” Reid said.
But there is concern the pandemic could stretch into the summer. A Tourism Industry Association of Ontario survey found industry stakeholders are reporting an 80 per cent drop in hotel reservations and operators are seeing mass cancellations.
“We may be dealing with the pandemic for a few months,” Marcellus said. “It would be a real problem for us and all of the other businesses in town who really rely on seasonal traffic.”