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Durham Facebook group helping highlight struggling businesses

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WATCH: While some businesses have struggled over the past few months, there have been numerous efforts to help. That includes a local Facebook group aimed at connecting restaurants with patrons. Aaron Streck reports. – Aug 26, 2020

While some businesses have struggled over the past few months due to coronavirus restrictions, there have been numerous efforts to help.

That includes a local Facebook group aimed at connecting restaurants with patrons.

Hamesh Nana used to dream about starting up a restaurant but he says doing so during COVID-19 has been a nightmare.

“The bills, they obviously don’t stop,” said Nana, owner of Whitby Stacked Pancake and Breakfast House.

The pandemic hit three days before they were scheduled to open, delaying the already months-long process by weeks.

“In the beginning, because there was no dine-in, we were forced to start as take-out only and breakfast is a sit down meal. (We) pretty much did close to 16 hour days to stay afloat,” said Nana.

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Read more: ‘Support local’: Ajax, Ont., launches coronavirus business response plan

Nana says they’ve racked up between $40,000 to $50,000 in debt, despite being able to offer limited dine-in.

“Fifty per cent capacity doesn’t help us that much, because when we work out our labour costs and the cost of our materials to get the food going, there’s literally no profit,” said Nana.

In April, Eric Novak created a Facebook group called Durham Region Eats to see which restaurants were still open and offering take-out services.

“It just blew up, everybody sort of took to it, there’s this huge push to be supportive in a local community and I think this desire to support the people who are struggling was a real fuel to the fire,” said Novak.

It started in Ajax and has spread across the region. Now, there are more than 12,000 members and well over 200 restaurants listed.

“Some months, I’ve had 75-80,000 interactions,” said Novak.

The plan was to shut it down once people were allowed to dine-in again but that has since changed.

Read more: Durham Region food banks struggle to keep up with increased demand during pandemic

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“I think we sort of untapped desire for people to discover within Durham the restaurants that exist.

Novak doesn’t know when he will be shutting down the group but he says as long as it continues to grow and help both patrons and local restaurants, he will keep it going.

As for Nana, he says being one of the businesses listed on the page has been a bright spot during a difficult time.

“It’s actually brought people to us,” said Nana.

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