The owners of Winnipeg establishments ordered to shutter for the next two weeks while cases of the novel coronavirus continue to spike in Manitoba’s capital are frustrated — and think their businesses have been singled out.
Starting Monday, gathering sizes drop from 10 to five people, and restaurants, retailers, libraries and museums will be limited to 50 per cent capacity, after the province announced the move Friday while COVID-19 cases rise.
Some businesses — like beverage rooms, nightclubs, casinos and bingo halls — will have to close outright for two weeks.
Establishments that serve food, but have beverage room or entertainment licenses, are forced to shutter too.
The King’s Head Pub has an entertainment license — owner Christopher Graves thinks it’s unfair for him to have to close up shop for two weeks while other restaurants and lounges can remain open, albeit with reduced capacity.
“What is actually truly disheartening is the fact that there are many establishments that have been doing the right thing and because of the way the province has announced the restrictions with licensing, we have to shut down,” Graves said.
“We fall under the entertainment license when we’ve been actually operating as a restaurant for the last four months.”
The pub is launching its own delivery service — using some of its workers to deliver the pub’s grub — which Graves said is meant to keep some of his employees in the red, rather than laying them off while the doors are locked.
“I’m really angry, I don’t even know what to do anymore, I’m angry for my staff, I’m angry for our industry and I’m angry that the provincial government continues to look down on (the hospitality industry),” Graves said.
Meanwhile, Ravi Ramberran’s Four Crowns Hotel and Restaurant is licensed as a beverage room, with a “family-friendly” addition to its license that allows minors inside until 9 p.m.
Despite its beverage room license (hotel bars are typically licensed as such), Ramberran’s offers a full menu.
In a classic beverage room, there’s more mingling and hustle and bustle, Ramberran said — but not so here, where Sunday afternoon it was mostly seated families, couples and the elderly, eating meals or slowly nursing draft beer by the slot machines.
“I’ve got restaurant written on the windows, I’ve got a sign outside, we’ve transformed into a restaurant but it’s never been of any benefit to anybody to go through the application process and change that. So I think we’re going to be shut down by a technicality, really,” Ramberran said.
“If we were having parties and getting out of control and getting fines and tickets like some other places — I would understand being shut down — but the fact is we’re going above and beyond.”
He worries that if the shutdown lasts more than the ordered two weeks, his business will go under permanently.
“There’s going to be a for-sale sign on the front, I hate to say that — the first shut down hit us very hard. We barely survived after that and these people worked with me for a long time — they’ll be out of luck too,” Ramberran said of his employees.