Saskatchewan restaurants fight to survive struggle posed by COVID-19 restrictions

Click to play video: 'Restaurants feeling the pinch post-COVID-19 pandemic, fighting for survival' Restaurants feeling the pinch post-COVID-19 pandemic, fighting for survival
WATCH: Restaurants have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, even with the health restrictions lifting on July 11 across Saskatchewan, establishments such as the Olive Tree Restaurant are fighting for their survival – Jul 4, 2021

North of Saskatoon, on Highway 12 lies a gem of sorts for lovers of unique Mediterranean food.

The Olive Tree Restaurant and Blacktop Diner have been dishing out authentic Greek food for 14 years.

Co-owner Michael Pantermarakis, who hails from Greece, says it only recently reopened its doors after being closed since mid-March of 2020.

The closure was due to the limit on allowed customers, one that Pantermarakis felt wasn’t suitable for keeping the business open through the majority of the pandemic.

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Pantermarakis says on a usually busy day they could get up to 40 people in the restaurant. Since reopening, they are lucky if they get 10.

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“It’s not what it used to be. People are afraid to go to eat out,” Pantermarakis said.

Restaurants Canada western region vice-president Mark von Schellwitz says the Olive Tree restaurant is not the only establishment facing difficult times.

He said up to 15 per cent of all restaurants in Canada have closed, either temporarily or permanently.

“(Restaurant) owners are saying they can’t keep incurring this debt over and over again,” von Schellwitz said.

“It’s not if we go bankrupt it’s a matter of when. Forty-five per cent of our members (have said this).”

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In a poll completed by Restaurants Canada, over 40 per cent of Canadians said they would sooner take the option of takeout of delivery over dining in at this time.

Von Schellwitz stressed the importance of people helping their local restaurants to keep them going through the pandemic, which has been described as the toughest time ever for the industry.

“Consumer confidence has taken a big hit because of COVID,” von Schellwitz said.

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“We really need Saskatchewanians to visit their favourite restaurants to help them get through this pandemic.”

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Pantermarakis says he has applied for help from the government but said his applications haven’t been accepted.

“We haven’t received one penny of help from the government and their support programs,” he said.

“I have applied multiple times and every time I haven’t been accepted. I’m not sure why.”

Von Schellwitz said it is imperative the government doesn’t lift its help and relief rules that have been in place for restaurants.

He said even with restrictions lifting, it will take a while to get back into a profitable area and a relief package or programs are essential.

Read more: Restaurants try to stay afloat as COVID-19 restrictions ease in Saskatchewan

Pantermarakis said with business being this slow, if things don’t change by the end of summer, they will look at the unfortunate reality of closing their doors for good.

“I see in the near future the closure of my business, along with many others,” Pantermarakis said.

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“It’s difficult in these times to survive.”

All COVID-19 health-related measures will be lifted in Saskatchewan on July 11.

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