Winnipeg businesses learning on the fly how to operate during a pandemic: week one

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Winnipeg businesses learning on the fly how to operate during a pandemic
Businesses are busier than ever as they learn first-hand how to serve an anxious public, while adhering to health directives. Joe Scarpelli reports – May 8, 2020

The first week of May was also the first week certain businesses were allowed to reopen their doors in Manitoba since public health orders shuttered much of the province to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Businesses Global News spoke to say they’re as busy as ever as they learn first-hand how to serve an anxious public, while adhering to health directives.

“The challenges are definitely staying on top of the changing legislation that’s happening,” says Lennard Taylor, who owns and operates his own fashion design studio.

“You have to double, triple, and sometimes quadruple-check you’re doing everything right, but you know what, that’s the way we’re going to have to do it.

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“This is the new world so I’m going to adapt any way I can to stay in business and keep my employees and staff safe, paid and smiling.”

Taylor says one of the main challenges is making sure everything from door handles to cash registers are constantly wiped down, and there’s plenty of hand sanitizer available for customers.

Despite the tedious cleaning regiment, Taylor says he hasn’t had trouble sourcing sanitizer, which he’s been able to get from a nearby gin distillery that’s modified its operation.

When it comes to the clothing itself, Taylor says they’ve set up a “quarantine rack” where items people have tried on sit for a minimum of four days, or are otherwise sent for cleaning before being used again.

Meantime in the heart of Winnipeg’s downtown, LOCAL Public Eatery has seen a full-capacity patio day after day all week, according to general manager Sean Lough.

“I had my ideas with Winnipeg, even though it was going to be a little cold, but the patios been packed,” Lough says.

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“Everyone is happy to see each other. I would say everyone’s a little tentative, and that’s to be expected.”

Full-capacity looks a little different amid a pandemic; Lough says under normal circumstances they’d have room for 60, but that’s been slashed in half.

Masked and gloved servers bring cold drinks to thirsty customers, and as per government orders, there’s hand sanitizer around every corner.

“There’s obviously extra challenges and extra labour that’s required to do this, but I completely understand why that is and we’re prepared for it,” Lough says.

Behind the scenes, things are different as well.

Lough adds he’s assigned a worker to keep an eye on the bathroom to wipe things down in between uses, and some in the kitchen wear face shields “depending on what type of prep they’re doing.”

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In addition to the reduced capacity, Lough says staffing has been dramatically reduced — plummeting from around 100 staff pre-COVID-19 to just seven. However as things ramp back up, he says he’s been able to bring about 30 individuals back.

“As long as everything goes well with the next phase and we can start the dine-in service with 50 per cent [capacity], my goal is to retain all of my partners that we had to temporarily lay off,” Lough says, adding with all the extra responsibilities, he may even need to hire more workers.

Even though consumer habits are in the midst of a massive shift, it seems Winnipeggers won’t give up the chance to sit down with some friends over drinks, even on a cold May afternoon.

“We’ve been full every day, and today it’s two degrees outside and the patios full; there’s a few jackets on but there’s also a few people out there in shorts.”


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