‘It’s the new gold’: COVID-19 has Plexiglas business booming

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We're getting our first good look at what dining out will look like, once B.C.'s restaurants begin re-opening in the coming weeks. Linda Aylesworth reports – May 15, 2020

With more businesses slated to open across British Columbia next week, business is booming for companies that work with Plexiglas.

“It’s the new gold,” said Brian French, president of Peregrine Retail Design Management.

French said prior to COVID-19, Plexiglas work accounted for about five per cent of his business — with most of their work being metalwork and millwork for retail and restaurants.

READ MORE: B.C. sets mid-May target to reopen restaurants with coronavirus precautions

Then Canada shut down international travel and multiple sectors of the economy, and grocery and liquor stores came calling.

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“By the end of that week, we were already starting to pivot into a lot more Plexiglas than normal,” he said. It now accounts for nearly a third of his business.

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“I joke with our suppliers because they’ve never been so popular,” he said.

“You can’t secure new [uncut Plexiglas] sheet, at least locally, until mid-June.”

READ MORE: Temperature check please: B.C. restaurants pitch plan to reopen amid COVID-19

On Thursday, French was on site at Vancouver’s Glowbal restaurant, installing Plexiglas barriers on tables in advance of the company’s opening next week.

B.C. has issued guidance for restaurants, pubs and cafes to safely reopen, and the province’s provincial health officer is expected to amend an order that prohibits dine-in service next week.

Key to B.C.’s guidance is more space between tables and the use of Plexiglas to separate booths, bartenders and host stands from other customers.

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Glowbal has gone a step further, adding custom made Plexiglas barriers to its tables.

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“We’re getting our restaurant ready for the new normal. We moved lots of our tables out, we created the social distance,” said Glowbal Restaurant Group CEO Emad Yacoud.

“I want to be beyond just the social distance; I want to make sure that the customers are feeling safe and our staff — this is very important — are feeling safe.”

READ MORE: 121K B.C. hospitality workers off the job, 28% of restaurants risk going under: survey

French said after the first wave of interest in Plexiglas from essential services businesses, things quieted down a little bit.

But now that firm guidance has come from the province for reopening other businesses, other big chains such as Joey and Earls have come calling.

“Right now, restaurants have been told they can open up to 50 per cent capacity,” he said.

“Plexiglas shield demand is not what it’s going to be when they open up to 70 and then 90 [per cent]. I think you’re going to see more shields within the restaurant and other safety measures as they allow that increased capacity. It’s far from done.”
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-With files form Linda Aylesworth

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