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Coronavirus: Toronto cocktail bar converts to online grocery store

WATCH ABOVE: A Toronto bar is trading serving cocktails for delivering groceries. The move comes as COVID-19 has forced many bars and restaurants to close. As Albert Delitala explains, they aren't the only one to recently change gears – Apr 10, 2020

A Toronto bar has temporarily converted to an online grocery store, a gear-shifting move one industry group says is increasingly common countrywide as a means to counter the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Over about three weeks, Mother Cocktail Bar on Queen Street West has gone from serving drinks to delivering groceries.

“The change is total. It’s a 100 per cent transformation,” said Massimo Zitti, a bartender and partner at the bar.

Zitti can now be found preparing groceries in the back kitchen. His colleague, Austin Guan, is likely to be packing orders or making deliveries.

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“Mainly it’s me and Massi working non-stop, so sometimes I’ve been working for like 12 to 13 hours a day,” Guan said.

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Using the Shopify platform, the bar offers fresh fruit and vegetables for customers. It also has prepared items such as sourdough bread and confit vegetables.

“They cannot go to bars and restaurants. Also, there are always huge lineups at the supermarkets,” Guan said.

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On the long hours and gruelling work, Zitti remarked: “A lot of people [are] being very thankful with us and that’s what keeps us going.”

While the bar’s approach may be unique, hundreds of restaurants and bars across the country are believed to be switching directions in an effort to keep customers engaged and increase revenue, James Rilett, vice-president of Restaurant Canada, told Global News.

“People are looking for different ways to get out there, keep their name out there,” he said. “You’re also seeing cooking classes online and on Instagram and such.”

As they approach one year in business, Zitti and Guan hope to return to running a cocktail bar soon.

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For now, they say they’re happy to do what they can to help.

“If I was a doctor now, I would probably feel so grateful as I would be out there helping people,” Zitti said. “How would I do it if I’m a bartender? [This is] probably the best way.”

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