Restaurant owners, workers brace for more closures

Restaurant owners, workers brace for more closures

By Michael Boriero

With bars, theatres, and gyms closed for the foreseeable future, as the Quebec government attempts to contain the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, restaurant owners and workers are beginning to sense that they will be next on the chopping block.

“I hope not, but we think it will happen. Unfortunately, we think starting next week the measures will be more strict, but we’re praying that the wave passes quickly,” said Christian Turcotte, a co-owner of the Café Aragon in Sherbrooke.

Turcotte told The Record that since the government’s previous announcement last week, which reduced restaurant capacity to 50 per cent, he has received dozens of phone calls from patrons to cancel their reservations. He also had to turn people away at the door.

Café Aragon is a small, cozy restaurant specializing in breakfast and lunch meals. The spots are already limited inside the dining room, and according to Turcotte, he only has 16 available seats with a reduced capacity in order to meet the province’s health and safety measures.

Turcotte’s restaurant is going on a short, two-week hiatus for the holidays. He is hoping that when his staff returns everything will be back to normal. However, he is also prepared to return to a take-out situation. Although, he understands it will be hard to retain his staff in that case.

“Yes, unfortunately, if we do have to start doing take out, we won’t need our whole team, so I’ll have to send some of my employees on unemployment, after that it’s up to them,” said Turcotte, adding he has faith in his staff and their loyalty to the restaurant.

Myriam Tremblay-Collin, who co-owns Le Refuge des Brasseurs, a microbrewery close to the Université de Sherbrooke, said her staff is also taking a break. But they have always taken a holiday vacation, she continued, it’s not because of the current COVID-19 situation.
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