Moncton restaurant owners say stricter orange phase restrictions are ‘killing’ their business

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The rise in COVID-19 cases is signaling a dire situation for local businesses. A Moncton couple who owns several restaurants in the city says the new orange level rules for dining out are making staying afloat nearly impossible. Shelley Steeves reports – Nov 25, 2020

A Moncton couple that owns several restaurants in the city are trying to keep their dining rooms open for business but say the orange phase of COVID-19 restrictions is making it a losing battle.

Under the current coronavirus safety measures, only people from the same household are allowed to dine out together, which means friends or extended families are not able to meet up for a meal.

“People aren’t coming out. Families aren’t coming out … it has killed our business,” said Michelle LeBlanc who owns the Sports Rock in Moncton and Dieppe with her husband.

Read more: COVID-19: Alberta makes masks mandatory in all indoor workplaces in Calgary, Edmonton and surrounding areas

Frank LeBlanc said he expects more restaurants in the city, including his own, may be forced to close off their dining rooms altogether if the orange phase lasts more than a few weeks. Michelle suggests some may be forced to close for the winter.

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“If this continues much longer we are all going to have to make hard decisions.”

The LeBlancs said their business dropped by 80 per cent during the last orange phase and, with the single bubble rule, Michelle said she can count on one hand how many families are coming in to dine at the Mountain Road location daily.

She said she understands the province’s need to keep people safe, but she said the hospitality industry needs more flexibility if it is going to survive.

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“It is up to us to police that. if you live in the same household do you have ID to prove that you live in the same household it makes things really difficult for us,” she said.

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Michelle says she is now having to decide which employees she will have to lay off, some for a second time since the pandemic started.

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“I cried for two days because I need to lay off my staff again,” she said.

She said the province won’t allow a small group of four to dine together then it should at least offer up forgivable loans to the hospitality industry.

“Keep your contacts low — I agree with that — but this one (single household rule) is hard to swallow. It makes no sense for our business,” said Frank.

According to the province, Opportunities New Brunswick has small business funding options available for businesses impacted by the pandemic including loans and loan deferrals.

“We are constantly consulting with business groups and business owners to listen to their concerns as we navigate this pandemic. We will continue to listen to business owners as we evaluate the best path forward,” said David Kelly, a spokesperson for the department of economic development.

He said that as of Nov. 3, 2020, a total of 294 applications had been received for the Small Business Emergency Working Capital program.

Kelly said that 237 applications had been approved for the small business loans and $16,697,250 in support has been approved.

Opportunities NB has also made capital loans available on a case-by-case basis in excess of $100,000 to support New Brunswick-based companies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Read more: New Brunswick reports 3 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday

Last week, Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health said the province is asking people to limit contacts to their own family bubbles.

“This is a virus that will spread exponentially if unchecked,” Russell said.

The orange phase of the recovery plan means that only a single household bubble is permitted. That single household can be extended to caregivers or immediate family members requiring support.

The province has also modified its existing guidance for the orange phase. The revised rules mean that outdoor gatherings with physical distancing are permitted with 25 people or fewer.

Faith venues can operate under an approved COVID-19 operation plan but the province says that in-person services are limited to 50 participants or fewer depending on the size of the facility.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.