Area restaurant and gym owners breathed a collective sigh of relief last Friday as they were finally able to offer indoor services for the first time in nearly four months under Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan.
For the past three weeks, they could only watch with envy as other non-essential businesses were allowed to reopen under Stage 2 of the plan, but on Friday it was their turn and they couldn’t be happier.
Caravela Restaurante on Innes Road had already been doing brisk business on their patio ever since the province allowed outdoor dining on June 11, but that business trailed off considerably whenever it rained.
Allowing indoor dining means the business is now weatherproof.
“It’s been like a rollercoaster. I spent more time watching the weather channel than the news. Whenever it was sunny, the phone rang off the hook, and if it rained the people don’t show up. Now the phone is ringing off the hook for people who want to eat inside,” says Caravela owner Fernando Diniz.
Little Turkish Village owner Sunil Kurichh doesn’t have the luxury of a patio. For him, the ability to provide indoor dining couldn’t have come soon enough.
“It’s been murder,” says Kurichh. “We’ve been doing takeout and deliveries, but its not enough. We’ve been hanging on by our fingertips. Open-ing inside is a matter of survival.”
The same story is true for dozens of gym and martial arts studio owners, who up until last week, were only able to provide workout sessions either online or outdoors.
IBV Fitness owner Vanda Hadarean was thrilled to finally be able to welcome her clients indoors.
“I’m super happy to be able to do the training indoors again. I was thankful to have the boot camps outdoors as well, but being inside the studio just brings it to another level,” says Hadarean, who expressed her gratitude at the support she’s received from her clients during the many lockdowns on Facebook. “I just want to thank everyone so much for continuing to support me and trust me. It definitely helped me and helped my business.”
The pandemic forced a lot of small gyms like 180 Fitness in Canotek Park to reinvent themselves.
180-Fitness owner Adrian Delorey was quick to pivot to online training sessions early on in the pandemic, and because of his experience in offering outdoor boot camps before COVID-19 arrived in the Nation’s Capital, he was able to take full advantage of the opportunity to offer classes outdoors when the health guidelines allowed.
“As strange as it sounds we’ve been very lucky,” says Delorey. “Our business has transformed miraculously, but we were only able to do that and survive because of the support of our clients. I know of at least 20 places in Canada that weren’t as fortunate and they’ve had to close for good.”
As for the immediate future, Delorey says it will take months for the general public to come back to fitness centres in the same numbers that existed before the pandemic.
“I think as people get fully vaccinated, they will feel more comfortable about going into a fitness centre, but there is bound to be a certain level of hesitancy after the amount of fear that has been imposed over the last 16 months. It’s going to take some time.”
In a perfect world, Delorey would like to see public health officials spend as much time promoting physical fitness in terms of pursuing a healthy lifestyle as they have in telling people to stay indoors during the pandemic.
He’s also not too happy with measures like the $300 million bailout the federal government gave GoodLife in the form of a large employer loan which amounted to $650,000 for each of their 450 franchises.
“The small gyms like mine were able to access the smaller loans and some grants, but nowhere near what GoodLife got,” says Delorey.
Independent gyms can apply for $60,000 in government loans, 66 per cent of which has to be repaid by December 2022. They also been able to get limited employee wage subsidies.