'We need to be able to prepare': Businesses call for advance notice on reopening date

Business owners in the region are calling for the provincial government to make a decision on when they can reopen - sooner rather than later.

“We all have to do what we have to do to keep businesses running, but we need to be able to prepare,” said Executive Chef Brock Skevington as he prepared takeout orders at Ironworks Kitchen in Woodstock, Ont.

Skevington said if he knows when he can reopen the restaurant’s dining room to patrons, he’ll better be able to minimize losses.

“Rebuilding is thousands and thousands of dollars going out in hopes that you’ll get that back. And functioning at a loss for an extended period of time will always equal bankruptcy,” said Skevington.

The provincial government has said the current restrictions will be in place until at least January 26, but that date is not written in stone.

Woodstock Chamber of Commerce General Manager Kim Whitehead said one week’s notice for reopening should be the minimum for businesses.

“They have to order stock, and with the supply shortages they have to get their stock in. When do they order? What do they order? They need to make sure their staff is there for indoor dining. The gyms, they have to let their memberships know, have to make sure their staff is actually coming back to work or not.”

Businesses say that while they need a firm reopening date with as much notice as possible, it is equally important that the government get it right. Some say the last thing they want is to shut down again shortly after they’ve reopened.

Gym owners Andrew Redden and Yvonne Billone, who operate Iron Monkey MMA & Fitness Club, have endured plenty of pain over the pandemic, but haven’t experienced much gain.

Billone said they have to pinch every penny. “The government gave us a $40,000 loan that we have to pay with no students to make money to pay it back. So we have to be very careful with what we spend.”

“And then on top of that you have to think, ‘Well is it worthwhile to continue on with business when, oh we could be in another lockdown,’” added Redden.

Theatres, museums and recreation centres also remain closed, while retail is operating at 50 per cent capacity.