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Saskatchewan’s hospitality industry hoping for busy summer to recover from COVID-19

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WATCH: Hospitality Industry hoping for busy summer to recover – May 9, 2022

It’s been a difficult two years for Taso Barlas as he’s tried to navigate keeping his family restaurant open during the pandemic.

After making constant adaptations, he’s still facing new challenges.

“People are dining out more, the demand is higher and the supply is shorter so we are having supply chain issues, we are having labor shortages, the supports for the staff and for the business for labor and wage subsidies have finished now,” said Barlas, who’s the general manager of Mano’s Restaurant & Lounge.

Read more: Canada’s COVID-19 supports have come to an end. Businesses say they still need help

Mano’s serves approximately 250 to 300 guests a day but those numbers dropped drastically over the last two years

Barlas says what helped to stay afloat was the federal wage subsidy.

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“We also qualified for the business loan and that’s gone into helping us maintain the building,” Barlas said. “We use it for things that are cost-related to the pandemic.”

In most cases, businesses were eligible for federal help if their province was in a state of emergency. Saskatchewan was one of the first to lift that measure.

Now, all pandemic-related financial help has ended across Canada and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says it’s still not business as usual — yet.

“Less than half of small businesses in Saskatchewan report being back to normal pre-pandemic sales,” Kathleen Cook, CFIB director of provincial affairs in Saskatchewan said.

“They’re just coming out of the turmoil of the last two years and now they’re dealing with skyrocketing inflation that’s driving up the cost of every line item in their own budgets.”

A spokesperson for Hospitality Saskatchewan is hoping for a summer full of events.

Read more: Businesses indirectly hit in lockdowns slipping through cracks of COVID supports

“It was great to see a lot of full parking lots and businesses hosing off their patios and decks and everyone getting ready for that,” said Jim Bence, Hospitality Saskatchewan president and CEO.

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“That’s very hopeful, there’s a lot of enthusiasm and optimism.”

However, the challenge now is finding employees.

“During the pandemic, particularly in early phases, a lot of our industry got laid off,” Bence said. “We were the first hit and the hardest hit and it’s taking us the longest to recover so a lot of folks left out industry.”

Back at Mano’s, Barlas is also optimistic about the future. He believes the biggest stressors are in the past and he gives the credit to his staff and customers.

“They understand we are going through challenges and they keep coming and they are forgiving when they are issues and at the end of the day, they know we are real people and just trying our best and I think they can relate to that,” Barlas said.

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