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Brenda O’Reilly, owner of O’Reilly’s Irish Newfoundland Pub and Yellow Brewery in downtown St. John’s, inside Yellowbelly Brewery on Friday afternoon. Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Green Sleeves Pub and Eatery on George Street in downtown St. John’s on Friday afternoon. Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
The snow has been cleared, the cleaning done, the food prepared and the lights turned on.
Downtown St. John’s will finally reopen for business today.
“Everyone’s chomping at the bit and can’t wait to get back at it,” said Lex Griffiths, entertainment manager at Green Sleeves Pub and Restaurant on George Street.
“It’s been a long eight days — the longest we’ve ever been closed. It’ll be good to see the staff and customers again and get back into the swing of things, especially when you look out and see it’s such a nice day.”
Normally one of the busiest spots in the city, the downtown area — like many other areas around the Northeast Avalon — has been at a standstill since the massive blizzard on Jan. 17 tore through eastern Newfoundland. Dubbed “Snowmageddon 2020” by many residents, the storm dumped a record-breaking 90 centimetres of snow in many areas, resulting in a state of emergency being declared by several municipalities.
While some allowances were made by city officials throughout the week to allow supermarkets, gas stations and some stores to open so residents could get essentials, the restaurants, bars and clubs were forced to stay closed.
With the state of emergency officially lifted today, dozens of downtown businesses were busy Friday evening making preparations for opening day.
Brenda O’Reilly, owner of O’Reilly’s Pub on George Street and YellowBelly Brewery and Restaurant on Water Street, said the first order of business was to assess the food and discard the perishables, measure what’s left and prepare for service on Saturday.
“We’ll see what we need to get to ramp up because our food supplier doesn’t deliver (on Saturdays), so I’ll need to go to Costco. I’ve got a bit of running around to do.”
While her businesses have been closed, O’Reilly has been busy working on the financials, which have been challenging.
“Things are still coming out of your bank account and of course we had no revenue. That’s been a definite challenge,” she said. “It’s been stressful this week. Bills continue to mount and we still have expenses.”
It’s been a challening few years for her business, she said. The storm came months after a massive tearup was undertaken by the city to replace aging underground infrastructure on Water Street in front of YellowBelly, which hurt business.
“I’ve been in business 25 years plus, so I’ve seen it all, but I have to say the last two or three years in Newfoundland, the storm was the real tipping point for me,” O’Reilly said.
“We were teetering and it’s because small business in Newfoundland is teetering. It’s because there’s been so much that has happened to affect businesses that are beyond our control and we’ve really been trying hard to manage.”
O’Reilly said insurance rates and credit card fees are increasing, not to mention processing fees on taxes and gratuities.
“We never get to keep that money, but we get the expenses attached to that money,” said O’Reilly, adding that she gets emotional thinking about recent negative comments about local business on social media.
“I don’t think people understand what small business really goes through.”
Griffiths and O’Reilly are just glad to be up and running again this weekend, with meals being served and live music back onstage.
“We’re hitting the ground running,” said O’Reilly, who is offering a free beverage this weekend to members of the military who helped out during the storm.
“We’re hoping the general public will come out in droves.”