Saskatchewan hospitality industry prepares for more COVID-19 restrictions

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WATCH: The Saskatchewan government has hinted that stronger guidelines could be placed on the hospitality industry as cases grow, but first they want to consult with sector – Nov 18, 2020

The head of an organization that represents the Saskatchewan hospitality industry said he’s anxious about potential new COVID-19 regulations.

On Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe said the government would consult with the hospitality industry, gyms and sports organizations “on steps we can take to improve the guidelines and to make each of these venues and each of these activities safer.”

On Wednesday morning the CEO of the Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association told Global News he’s been in constant contact with government officials and that no specifics have been discussed yet.

Read more: Saskatchewan looks to feds for help as contact tracing becomes challenging

He said the pandemic has been terrible for the industry and that strict regulations, or another lockdown, must be avoided.

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“It would be catastrophic. You know, there’s so many operators that have not made it… There are so many that are on that razor’s edge now,” Jim Bence said, speaking over Zoom in Regina.

Bence said he believed the current guidelines — which require tables to be two metres away from one another, for example — are sufficient, but added he is happy to work with the government and medical professionals to make the industry even safer.

Later in the day Moe said he wouldn’t institute another lockdown.

Regardless, Bence also said the industry needs support from the government.

“This is our busiest time of year,” he said, mentioning the holiday period.

Read more: Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe rejects NDP call for immediate circuit-breaker lockdown

“With these restrictions that are in place, it’s just really, really tough to make a go of it.”

On top of the lack of income from fewer holiday parties and regular patrons, he said the end of government support, like deferrals on payments and employee retention programs, are exacerbated by rising insurance premiums.

“If you look at a full service hotel, their fixed costs every single month is $250,000 a month. Well, I can tell you that the revenues are nowhere near that,” he said.

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Jason Wosminity manages Las Palapas, a Saskatoon restaurant.

He said the summer was busy but business has dropped off lately.

“(But) this latest bout hasn’t been busy at all. It’s been very slow. People are scared, they’re apprehensive.”

He told Global News the restaurant has changed the way it does business, like creating a delivery service “using our own staff to keep more people employed.”

Wosminity said they had received fewer holiday party bookings than last year, and most of those who did arrange something have since cancelled.

He said he’s worried for the future but that the restaurant will adapt.

Read more: Anxiety in Saskatchewan’s retail, service industry workers rising with coronavirus cases

“If (government guidelines) keep the public safe and keeps people alive, then we need to do what we need to do.”

Wosminity says he’ll abide by whatever guidelines are enacted — because he knows how important it is to stay safe.

He said his father Adam was one of the first people to die in Saskatchewan from COVID-19.

“My dad died alone. My mom was in quarantine… no one could be with him,” he said.

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“I don’t wish that upon anybody. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve every had to go though.”

He hopes everyone follows public safety guidelines.

“We can only try then we fail and other people die.”

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