What would you do to save your favourite haunts? Would you fight? Or would you do nothing and let them fade into obscurity?
These are the questions I’m asking you today.
It should come as no surprise at this point that the restaurant industry has taken a pounding over the last two years. Even more so because we live in Fort McMurray. Honestly, it’s not an easy business here at the best of times, and we’ve seen our fair share of closures. But now we find ourselves watching many of the places we used to know and love disappear at an alarming rate. And while it saddens me when a place I like to frequent goes under, I can’t help but feel concerned with the growing trends we’ve seen since the opening months of 2020. COVID has taken its toll, not only in lives but in livelihoods. I wish I could say things will get better, but there doesn’t seem to be any end near in sight. No endgame. No relief.
In the past few months, we’ve seen many of our local restaurants, bars, and shops shut their doors for good. The Podollan and STACS are among some of the latest victims. The economy here in town has certainly played a factor, of that I have no doubt. But let’s be honest for a moment. How are some of these places supposed to survive under the constant threat of additional lockdown measures and restrictions? Yes, there are subsidies. Yes, there is support. But it’s not just about the money. We have to take into account the amount of time and planning, staffing, training, and supplying it takes for these establishments to thrive. And many of them have had to adjust how they operate with nothing more than a week’s notice – sometimes even less than that. How are they supposed to invest product and labour into a business they may or may not have running next week? Who would want to take that risk? Who would want to work for them knowing they may be out of a job at the tip of the government’s hat?
This week, Paddy McSwiggins announced their continued struggles over Facebook. If things don’t change, I worry about what the future may bring. And I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have a bit of a personal attachment to the place. It’s been one of my favourite pubs to go for a pint and laugh over the last few years. Time and time again, I’ve gone back to Paddy’s and always found myself in good company; I’m sure many feel the same as me. There are also some, I’m sure, that don’t share this sentiment. Maybe it’s not your favourite place, and that’s ok. But I’m getting so tired of hearing the same old Fort Mac phrase, over and over again, “there’s nothing to do here,” when we weren’t willing to support our local businesses. And in this case, I’m not necessarily talking about just one.
I understand we’re still dealing with a pandemic, and I’m not going to comment about whether or not the measures we’ve taken to this point were necessary. I’ve supported the health measures and done my part. I will continue to do so until this thing is resolved (if it ever is). I’ve worn a mask, socially distanced, sanitized my hands, and monitored for symptoms. I’ve been tested multiple times. I’m fully vaccinated. I show my proof of vaccination at the door. But I can’t understand the logic behind some of these businesses being forced into closing their doors and ending sales early when the Edmonton Oilers still have a packed house. I can’t wrap my head around why restaurants have been repeatedly told to go to takeout and delivery only when 200+ of my closest friends and I can go to Walmart and buy a PS5 on account of them being considered an “essential service.” At least some of the larger chain restaurants have the capital and reserves to close as the government has directed. But the mom and pop shops – the independently owned ones – are being starved out of existence. They’re dying because they’ve also done their part. And that’s not ok.
My friends, today I am asking for help. If you are comfortable going out, consider buying a beer or some wings at a local pub. Stop in and say hello to the staff. Order take out. Show your support. Make new friends! Give hope! These are things you can still do! It’s not much, but every little bit helps.
They can’t afford to lose any more than what they have now.
Image Credit: incasent