Mocha Cabana, a longtime staple in the Lethbridge restaurant scene, has closed its doors. Its sister business — Mocha Local — will be done following a closing sale on Friday.
The owners of the two businesses declined to comment on camera, but a statement posted on their door cited the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the current state of the economy as reasons for the closures.
Local business owner Kelti Baird with Theoretically Brewing Company said news of the closure came as a shock.
“They were a valued and treasured client of ours,” Baird said. “They carried our product and they carried many local products in their shop and in their restaurant, and the ripples of them closing will actually be felt within the community because of their local support.”
Baird said the issues raised by the notice on the restaurant’s door are ones that most local business owners are also familiar with.
“Staring down the barrel of this is kind of scary,” Baird said.
“The past couple of years have been extremely difficult and we haven’t even had a chance to catch our breath.”
Trevor Lewington with Economic Development Lethbridge said the latest census shows the total number of businesses in the city is now above pre-pandemic levels, but it is important to take that growth with a grain of salt.
“(There are) more businesses operating today than there were before the pandemic, but again, it’s hard to know exactly what the implications are,” he said.
“Just because there is a business operating doesn’t mean it’s successful — (it) doesn’t mean they are making money.”
Baird added with the increased cost of inflation and more online competitors like Amazon taking business away from local shops, there is one thing southern Albertans can do to ensure small businesses can keep their doors open.
“All we are asking you to do is, if you are thinking of buying anything — food, clothing, furniture, beer — obviously, shop local first,” Baird said. “That’s it. That’s all we want you to do.”
It is a simple step that could have big impacts for a business trying to rebuild.