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Coronavirus: Several businesses in the City of Kawartha Lakes adapt to survive

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The economy has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. Closures and restrictions have forced several businesses to rethink how they operate and how they offer their services. Mark Giunta reports – May 25, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has had a large effect on all sectors of the economy.

Some businesses have been forced to close permanently while others have had to adapt fast and shift focus to stay viable.

In the village of Fenelon Falls, Fenelon Falls Brewing Co. opened in November 2019. It quickly switched to an online model at the outset of the closures and restrictions in March.

“We were opened until about March 13, where we were operating the restaurant downstairs. We switched to an online platform to get beer out through delivery,” said Mathew Renda, general manager for the brewery. “We do deliveries Fridays and Saturdays throughout the Kawarthas and one hour from the brewery, so places like Uxbridge and Durham. We do pickups at the brewery on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We want to be open to show people the building from the doorway.”

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READ MORE: City of Kawartha Lakes establishes 2 coronavirus pandemic recovery task forces

Despite the trying times, the brewery is feeling the support from Fenelon Falls and beyond.

“It was a quick change but the community supported it and the craft beer followers supported us as well. We’re seeing orders within town and all the way out to Ottawa, London and St. Catharines. We ship across the province. That helps bring revenue in to keep everything going so that when we open the building, we can open at full capacity, or whatever the new capacity is.”

It even has launched a new Kawartha Summer Ale beer recently that supports Kawartha Conservation.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus — City of Kawartha Lakes extends state of emergency to June 2

The travel and tourism sector has been especially hard hit during the current crisis.

Happy Days Houseboats near Bobcaygeon touts itself as the premier houseboat rental service on the Trent-Severn Waterway.

The business is open and is preparing for the opening of the waterway in June.

“We are open and can be open,” owner Jill Quast said in a text message with Global News Peterborough.  “However, we are holding off with rentals until the beginning of June when the locks open.”

Despite the uncertainty with travel, Quast says the company has been busy over the last few weeks.

“The phone is ringing off the hook, though. Still a lot of uncertainty with guests and restriction that people seem to be unclear about. We are wording everything to align with the province: Stage 1, 2, and 3 and public health as well,” she said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Tourism in Peterborough and the Kawarthas likely to take major hit this summer

In downtown Lindsay, it’s a tough go right now for The Grand Experience, a restaurant and pub.

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“I’m pretty well shut down, being a restaurant. I’m doing some takeout, but that’s a struggle. That’s not a very big part of my business. It’s a tough go right now for all the businesses that are struggling here in Lindsay,” said owner Charlie McDonald.

“I have a large place here. It affects me a lot. I have 7,600 square feet and now we’re working in a capacity of just 800 square feet for just the kitchen. It affects my employees — there’s a lot out of work right now. We’re a restaurant and a tavern, so it’s going to be a while before people will want to come back out to these places and feel safe.”

McDonald says that while he’s open for takeout, the bills keep piling up.

“There’s rent that’s still got to be paid. The hydro bill, gas bill and water bills are still coming in and nobody is making any money. That’s the biggest challenge for business. I know it’s my biggest challenge. I have these bills and there’s not too much money coming in,” he said.

Like most businesses in the City of Kawartha Lakes, the summer months are where the most money can be made for the restaurant during the year. Tourism is the largest economic driver in the area.

“I’m hoping that I can weather the storm. I’m Phase 3, so I hear. So, it all depends on how long they continue to do this. If I can’t open before the summer is over, I don’t think it will be possible (to stay in business).”

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McDonald is also the chair of the Lindsay Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA).

“You have your patio and a lot of tourists. Summer is our busiest time. We’re struggling with downtown Lindsay construction and now we have the COVID-19 and stuff. It’s going to be difficult for businesses to pull through this, but I’m hoping there will be a plan from the city and the government so we can all work together on this.”

Several downtown Lindsay storefront businesses have reopened with physical-distancing restrictions in place as part of Stage 1 of the province’s reopening plan.

McDonald said the BIA is meeting biweekly virtually to keep all of its businesses informed throughout the pandemic and reopening process.

City of Kawartha Lakes council will go through the final terms of reference for its economic recovery task force at a virtual council session on May 26.

The task force will take the results of a recent online business survey to help chart its path to helping the business sector recover.

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