COVID-19: Nova Scotia restaurants get heads-up on partial reopening, scramble to rehire staff

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Restaurant owners scrambling to hire back staff
WATCH: The association representing hundreds of restaurants across Nova Scotia say they were given official word of partial reopening Monday morning. Owners are now scrambling to hire back staff- a process they say isn’t easy without advance notice. Alexa MacLean has more. – Jun 14, 2021

The association representing hundreds of restaurants across Nova Scotia says its members were given official word Monday morning of a partial reopening this week.

Indoor dining has been non-existent for seven weeks now, during the province’s third wave of COVID-19.

Now, with the second phase of the province’s five-phase plan expected to begin on Wednesday, restaurants owners are scrambling to hire back staff and get ready.

“Reorder supplies and get people back in to run their operations,” explained Gordon Stewart, the executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia.

Restaurants and tourism have been two of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic, and having trained staff on standby to potentially return to work is a lot more challenging than most may realize.

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“A lot of people have left the industry. They’ve gone to other places, construction, you name it,” said Stewart.

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“They’ve gone to a variety of different sectors where they could get employment, have a regular paycheque. So we’re definitely going to be short.”

Other provinces, such as British Columbia, have specific dates tied to their reopening plan. But Nova Scotia’s premier, Iain Rankin, has said dates are irresponsible because of COVID-19’s fluid nature.

He’s opted to have reopening done in phases, depending on case numbers and vaccination rates.

“How do we plan when to bring back our staff? We’ve been told only this morning that we can open Wednesday and people are scrambling to place their food orders, to bring in their staff,” said Luc Erjavec, vice-president of Atlantic Canada for Restaurants Canada.

The province has said that if case numbers and hospitalizations remain low, the second phase of the plan will launch Wednesday. However, there will still be limited capacity and restrictions, which is why restaurant associations are calling on the federal government to maintain its wage and rent subsidy programs. Right now, the programs run until the end of September.

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“If wage and rent support doesn’t continue till the end of the year, that’s going to take another slice of people off the radar screen,” said Stewart.

Wage and rent subsidy rates will start to decrease in July, as the federal government phases out emergency subsidy support into a new program focused on hiring and recovery.

— With a file from Rebecca Lau

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