‘Outrageous’: Winnipeg businesses upset over choices made for new restrictions

It’s three days since new restrictions that will last at least two weeks were placed on the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region as the province tries to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced on Wednesday that these restrictions impact 15 businesses total, which means they have to close their doors for two weeks.

Some of the affected businesses are voicing their frustration with the news, questioning how such a small number of business closures will help prevent COVID-19.

Christopher Graves is the owner of the King’s Head Pub, one of the establishments that have had to close its doors. He said places with entertainment licenses are the only ones that have to be shut down.

“I am assuming the province thinks 15 establishments being closed down are going to stop the coronavirus, the spread of it,” said Graves.

He said he feels the specific entertainment license is being targeted by the province and that is why they are closed.

He added the entertainment license allows for places to have pool tables and stages for live music, which he notes aren’t allowed to be used right now because of the restrictions that were put in place when the pandemic started.

“Nobody can even use that part of the entertainment license,” Graves said, adding the other part of the license allows them to serve food, which he said essentially makes them a restaurant.

“I don’t know why we are being targeted. I have no idea why. I’d like to know what the numbers are, where the statistics are of how the province thinks shutting 15 establishments down, that I will also mind you have never had any traces or any transmissions of any coronavirus in them whatsoever, how they think that’s what’s going to stop and control the spread of the coronavirus.”

Kevin Monk, who is the co-owner of The Toad in the Hole Pub, shared a similar sentiment and said the restrictions only impacting 15 businesses is “outrageous.”

“The biggest surprise was how much clout the Hotel Association has to reverse the original deal. They put these in place to protect everybody, not just special interests,” said Monk.

“It makes no sense that we shouldn’t be open,” Royal Albert Arms bar manager David McKeigan told CTV News Wednesday.

McKeigan, who runs the live music venue in the Exchange District, said he doesn’t understand why he must close, but beverage rooms, restaurants and lounges can remain open. 

“I don’t think there is much of a difference between this 113-year-old bar and other beverage rooms in Winnipeg.”

“It was very confusing, and very last minute,” Wade Salchert, the owner of La Roca, told CTV News Wednesday.

Salchert received a call Tuesday informing him the downtown business would have to close under the latest public health orders.

“I think everyone operating a liquor license, provided they’re following the restrictions should operate on a level playing field,” he said.

Salchert said La Roca has followed public health orders and adhered to the same restrictions as restaurants with dining licenses. 

Tables were kept six feet part, hours were shortened and dancing wasn’t allowed. 

Salchert employs 50 people and said he is worried they be may be out of work for longer than two weeks if he’s not able to reopen. 

CLOSURE PUTS $15K OF BEER DOWN THE DRAIN

Both Graves and Monk said because they have closed down again there is a bunch of products that will not be good anymore including some of the alcohol.

“Kegs that are going to be off are going to be sent back with all of the other kegs back to the brewery and they will probably dispose of them,” said Monk.

Graves said he has 35 taps at the King’s Head and when they reopen in two weeks a lot of that beer won’t be useable so they have to get rid of it.

He said the tap has about eight pints worth of beer in it.

“Every keg that I have is anywhere from $300 to probably $500 worth of beer, let alone the eight pints and that is all what goes down the drain. I can’t use it. It goes bad,” said Graves.

He added in terms of money lost in sales, he is out around $15,000 when he has to dump the beer.

Monk also said the beer isn’t the only problem, as they have to deal with all the food as well.

“We have lost tons of produce, all of our produce is not going to last. You can’t really freeze tomatoes. Whatever we can’t freeze we have to give away,” said Monk.”

He added when they are allowed to reopen there will be a bit of a scramble to refill the fridge so that they can sell food again.

‘WE’RE DOING OUR VERY BEST’: PALLISTER SAYS THERE IS NOT ENOUGH MONEY FOR ALL HARDSHIPS

Pallister was asked why the restrictions were changed to not include beverage rooms when they were originally on the list.

Pallister said there is no exact science when it comes to the pandemic.

“Public health is trying to make their decisions and the recommendations, rule changes that they impose are based on science, but science is in its infancy on this pandemic, to put it bluntly. So I support Dr. (Brent) Roussin’s decision in respect to limiting the impact of his decisions or the parameters of his decisions in respect to certain restaurants and bars,” said Pallister.

The premier was also asked whether or not any of the 15 establishments would receive any financial supports over the next two weeks to keep them afloat.

He said many small businesses have already received help through programs set up by the government.

“I can only say there’s not enough money in any treasury to make up the hardships and losses that have been experienced not just by small businesses but by people right across our country and we’re doing our very best.” 

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