N.B. businesses brace for early return to Level 2 of province’s winter plan

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick returns to Level 2 of winter action plan' New Brunswick returns to Level 2 of winter action plan
After two weeks of strict restrictions to curb the spread of Omicron, New Brunswick will be loosening restrictions two days earlier than planned. As of midnight, the province is moving back to Level 2 of its winter action plan. Suzanne Lapointe reports – Jan 28, 2022

At the stroke of 12 on Saturday morning, New Brunswick will return to Level 2 of its winter COVID-19 response plan. Among other things, this allows New Brunswickers to dine in restaurants with members of their steady 10, work out in gyms, and book haircuts and other aesthetics services.

The change is coming two days ahead of what was initially set as the target date at the beginning of lockdown.

Gaye Cail, executive director of the Cosmetology Association of New Brunswick, says opening up again is not as easy as flipping a switch for cosmetologists.

“It’s not like being able to open like a retail store where customers can come in and buy. You gotta plan you gotta get your staff in so it’s been very difficult for our industry,” she said in an interview on Friday.

Read more: N.B. to loosen COVID-19 restrictions early, ending two-week lockdown

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Luc Erjavec, vice-president of the Atlantic division of Restaurants Canada, echoed her comment: “What operators would be doing (Friday) is trying to find staff at short notice, purchasing products.

“We all know there are challenges with the supply chain, particularly with everyone wanting the product all at once. Throw on 30 centimetres of snow on Saturday … it’s going to be a heck of a few days for operators in New Brunswick.”

He said the biggest concern for restaurants was keeping staff during a period of frequent starts and stops for the industry.

“I think most operators tried to keep their key staff employed at tremendous cost to themselves,” he said.

50 per cent capacity limits still a major concern for businesses

Under Level 2 of the winter plan, restaurants, bars, spas, salons and gyms are only able to operate at half capacity.

That rule, coupled with the latest lockdown was enough for Quispamsis gym owner Sean Barker to permanently shut his doors after 11 years in business, laying off nine part-time employees.

“Since the beginning, we’ve been cut by 50 per cent – we’re a group fitness studio and it’s very hard to operate a group fitness studio if you can’t have groups and you can’t have enough of those groups,” he said Friday.

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He’s now pivoted to being a personal trainer using an online model.

Read more: 5 Canadian businesses on how they pivoted to online platforms

“It’s difficult still to be able to earn a living and operate efficiently and have enough funds to maintain your establishment,” Cail said of the capacity limits.

Erjavec said the latest lockdown has been the toughest yet for New Brunswick restaurateurs.

“We are reopening and we’re pleased about that but we’re still operating under severe restrictions at 50 per cent capacity. It’s hard to make money at full capacity.”

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