COVID-19 outbreak slamming local businesses

New rules in place on restaurants and bars

Days of gloomy news about a growing COVID-19 outbreak are taking a local toll on businesses as customers wait out the pandemic.

On Monday, at the Chameleon Restaurant, no one came through the restaurant’s doors, said owner Mario Bitoiu.

“Not a single person walked in as a guest,” he said. The slowdown in business started on Friday then trickled to nothing by the start of this week and he was thinking of closing the doors.

That decision was made Tuesday when the restaurant shut it doors temporarily.

“The health and safety of our guests and our employees continues to be our highest priority,” Chameleon said on Facebook.

READ MORE: Maple Ridge closes doors on public buildings in COVID-19 combat

“Following the advice of B.C. health authorities, we will be closing our restaurant, effective today.

“Although this was a difficult decision to make, we feel this is best for our guests, our employees, our partners, and our community as a whole,” the restaurant said online.

The restaurant is also trying to minimize the financial impact on its approximately 20 staff and will re-open once it’s safe.

Bitoiu said he just has to be optimistic that we’re going to get out of this with no permanent damage, emotional and financial. “We don’t know. We’ve never been there before, so we don’t know what to expect,” he said.

Ineke Boekhorst, executive-director with the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association, said about half of downtown businesses are closed and expects most to do so by the end of the week, given the government’s message to people to stay home.

The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce, closed its doors Wednesday, with staff working remotely, as is the BIA.

“Things are changing so rapidly that what I tell you now, can be totally different in a couple of hours,” Boekhorst said.

She said businesses are trying to be creative by offering appointment-only or delivery service. On the bright side, the weather is nice. “Hopefully, it will all turn out for the better, hope for the best,” Boekhorst said.

Business has also slowed at the Big Feast Bistro, owned by Mike Mulcahy, who also owns the Big Smoke Alehouse on Lougheed Highway.

READ MORE: Canada-U.S. border closing to non-essential travel

“I’m going to cook until I’m told I’m not allowed to cook anymore,” he said Monday.

Mulcahy said that his Skip the Dishes and Doordash business has increased and take out has jumped by 40 per cent. He’s also set up a curbside, pick-up spot outside his restaurant so people can order ahead, then stop by and get their order without getting out of their car.

There is also limited table service to ensure the proper spacing between customers.

“We hope to remain open during these hard times and thank you for your understanding,” Mulcahy said.

Big Smoke Alehouse however closed on Tuesday. “We are following the path of many other large restaurants and with the size of our venue and will be closed until further notice,” he said online.

Big Smoke will re-open once they have more information on setting up take-out or delivery service. “Until then, stay safe and thank you for understanding.”

On Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered the closure of all pubs and bars because they can’t maintain social distancing rules of one to two metres between customers.

She added that restaurants that cannot maintain a one- to two-metre distance have to move to take-out and delivery models.

READ MORE: B.C. coronavirus cases jump by 83, public health emergency declared

Meetings of more than 50 people, indoors or outdoors, are also banned.

Humble Roots Cafe and Deli said on Facebook that as of Wednesday, it’s moved to take-out only service.

“Even with very strict hygiene protocols in place, we feel this transition allows us to continue to provide our community with a valuable service while helping to minimize the risk of further spread,” Humble Roots said online.

The cafe is also providing a car-hop service to those who prefer to stay in their vehicles. Staff will wear disposable medical gloves and have sanitization procedures to follow each transaction. Debit or credit payments are preferred, it said.

“For now, our opinion is to have faith in the systems that are designed to keep us safe. We implore others to not succumb to the symptoms of fear but give power to the courage required to tackle the shared task at hand. Our hope is that when this all passes, we look back in gratitude and connection, rather than wishing we could have done better.”

Humble Roots is also offering help to those in finance difficulties, it said.

“Every challenge is an opportunity and despite all the uncertainties, we are all in this together!” it said.

Florie Chaykowski, with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce, said that the B.C. Chamber of Commerce is asking the government to help insure that low-interest loans or lines of credit are available, to be more flexible around tax deadlines and employment insurance access. Those recently have been addressed by the federal government.

Chaykowski though said she hasn’t received any calls from local businesses although she’s heard that event-driven businesses are impacted.

“We’re trying to be proactive and trying to get the information out to people,” she said.

COVID-19 is also affecting the auto business, with Haney Automotive going online telling customers they remain open.

“All of us here at Haney Automotive are healthy and washing hands regularly and that means we are open!” Haney Automotive said.

But the priority is safety, all auto techs wear latex gloves while working and office services are regularly cleaned, it said.

“So if you need us … we are here. And to all of you, stay safe and be kind to one another. We will get through this,” said Brandon Zimmerman and Heather McRitchie.

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