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25,000 food-service jobs lost in Saskatchewan during COVID-19: survey

25,000 food-service jobs lost in Saskatchewan during COVID-19: survey
WATCH: According to a recent survey done by Restaurants Canada, nearly 25,000 food-service jobs have been lost in Saskatchewan.

Restaurants Canada estimates about 25,000 food-service jobs have been lost in Saskatchewan due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The numbers come from a recent survey by the national restaurant association. It found nearly one in 10 restaurants have closed for good, while more closures could be on the way.

“We’ve never seen anything like this in the industry,” Mark von Schellwitz, the organization’s vice president for Western Canada, told Global News.

“Our biggest concern right now is making sure that we can get as many operators to survive the next few months so that all those laid-off employees will have jobs to come back to.”

Restaurants Canada estimates sales in Saskatchewan could take a $500 million nosedive in the second quarter of 2020.

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READ MORE: Saskatchewan small business advocate sounds economic alarm over COVID-19 pandemic

“We’re going to have a very different industry at the end of this process than we did before. And I think it’s going to take several months or even a year just to get back to normal sales levels,” he said.

“They still have to keep the lights on [and] the utilities going even though they have no revenue to do that. Many of them are really concerned that they’re not going to be able to survive this.”

In Regina, The Capitol shut down, due largely to COVID-19.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the permanent closing of The Capitol effective immediately,” the restaurant issued in a statement on March 16.

“A struggling economy compounded with our growing concerns over public safety due to the COVID-19 virus has depleted our ability to operate a profitable business.”

The survey estimates that four out of five restaurants have laid off employees since March 1, and that seven out of 10 food-service operators are planning to cut back on staff if current conditions continue.

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“More help is needed, especially that liquidity — that working capital, just to try to get them through the next few months where they have no income but still have all those operating costs to pay,” von Schellwitz said.

Restaurants Canada is calling for an expansion of the qualifying conditions for the 75 per cent wage subsidy announced by the federal government in March.

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It’s also asking the federal and provincial governments to be flexible with rent and utility payments. Saskatchewan’s government is implementing a bill deferral program for crown utilities.

In Saskatoon, Ayden Kitchen & Bar, Little Grouse on the Prairie, Sticks & Stones, and Avenue Restaurant are among businesses that are temporarily closed.

“With growing concerns over COVID-19, and under the recommendation of government/health officials to keep everyone safely at home as much as possible during these uncertain times, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily close all Grassroots Restaurant Group restaurants,” the company posted on Instagram on March 16.

Small business advocate sounds economic alarm over COVID-19
Small business advocate sounds economic alarm over COVID-19

Saskatoon’s Taste Restaurant Group — which owns Bar Gusto, Una, Cohen’s Beer Republic, and Picaro — has laid off about 90 employees.

Co-owner Carmen Hamm estimates sales are down 75 per cent.

“We’re really, really hoping that we can get through this without adding any additional debt. That just would be extra weight … financially on top of already trying to just get through right now,” she said.

The company is trying to stay afloat with delivery and takeout sales from Una, which is their only restaurant that hasn’t temporarily stopped all operations, she said.

“I just applaud all of the local restaurant owners and managers that are working so hard to make that dramatic shift in their business model,” Hamm said.

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“We’re just trying to do what we can to be a bit of a break and a bit of normalcy for people in the midst of the chaos of what they’re going through right now.”

Preventing the spread of COVID-19
Preventing the spread of COVID-19

“We’re going to have a very different industry at the end of this process than we did before. And I think it’s going to take several months or even a year just to get back to normal sales levels,” he said.

“They still have to keep the lights on [and] the utilities going even though they have no revenue to do that. So many of them are really concerned that they’re not going to be able to survive this.”

The Saskatchewan government has mandated that no public gatherings exceed more than 10 people, leaving many restaurants to operate solely on delivery and pickup.

“Once these social distancing measures are lifted, please come out and visit your local restaurants,” von Schellwitz said.

“We really encourage people to support their industry now more than ever because we are in crisis.”

READ MORE: How long will coronavirus measures last in Canada? Experts say June or July

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.