“Support local” has been a slogan throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta. But now, it’s even more important than ever.
The lack of government subsidies and new challenges on top of old ones during the 5th wave is putting local on life support despite few restrictions.
Edmonton’s Dalla Tavola Zenari’s restaurant opened during the pandemic, in December of 2020, so many people don’t even know it’s open and now there’s a fast-spreading variant.
The owner, Elisa Zenari, has been making light of the serious situation because it’s all she can do at this point to not lose sleep, while her business hangs on by a thread.
“Is it a new reservation or is it a cancellation? That’s kind of like the joke.
“Not having bums in seats is really challenging and I think we all sort of are looking at the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s getting further and further away,” Zenrai said. “The premier was in last week and (the restaurant) happened to be busy and for him, it as like: ‘Hey you guys are busy.’ You want to put on a brave face but one hour of busy isn’t going to pay the bills.”
The downtown foot traffic is still bleak, with many still working from home and now people are hesitant to go out again because of Omicron and a lack of testing options available.
Puneeta McBryan, the Dowtown Business Association executive director, said so many more issues are coming up now on top of nearly two years of these businesses giving it everything they’ve got to hold on.
“They’ve got staff that are sick and there’s no rapid tests available, no PCR testing made available. It’s this compounding set of factors making it much much worse,” McBryan said.
“And the worst part about this wave is that none of the government subsidies that made that resiliency possible in 2020 exist, so it’s actually in a lot of ways, for a lot of restaurants, even worse at this moment.”
Support local might be falling on deaf ears after hearing it for nearly two years but business owners say if you want to see your favourite familiar spot around in the spring, that’s the only way.
“If you have any expendable income right now… now is a great time to be buying gift cards, ordering takeout, if you are comfortable… going and dining in,” McBryan said.
Restaurants in Chinatown have been in the same boat, barely surviving. The restaurant 97 Hot Pot just reopened in August and said Dining Week has provided a boost but it’s not even close to enough.
“If you put money into local businesses, it stays local,” Zenari said.