When Flo Fogarty received the news restaurants in the province could only serve takeout as of March 19, there was an emotional task ahead of her.
For Fogerty, the manager of Montana’s on Reeves Street, the easy way with a staff of 65 would have been a mass email. She never even entertained the idea.
“All of them got called individually by me,” she said. “I wanted to have our own little one-on-one conversations with each of them.”
Fogarty said these temporary changes are hard for their staff as for some it’s their family income.
“They understand because they want safety first,” she said. “They want to make sure their family is safe and their guests are safe. It’s about everybody taking care of each other.
"It’s upsetting for them all as they wish – as everyone else wishes – the whole virus situation wasn’t here and have to take into consideration time will heal everything.”
The management is overseeing the staff, making sure everyone is doing okay. The employees know they can drop in to ask questions or if they need anything, she added.
“If we have to raise a little bit of money for food to give to them, we’re there for them.”
On Thursday, two new presumptive cases of COVID-19 were announced in Nova Scotia, bringing the total to five confirmed and nine presumptive, all travel related or close to someone who had traveled.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil announced earlier this week in order to help control the spread of the COVID-19, bars had to close and restaurants could be open for takeout only.
Montana’s has done as many other restaurants have: remained open for takeout.
Fogarty said obviously many staff members had to be laid off but to help with a little more income on top of their unemployment, shifts for the takeout are being circulated to balance things fairly.
“Some volunteered to go and some volunteered to do that,” she said. “We are trying to work amongst ourselves to balance each other.”
In the meantime, the close-knit staff are staying in touch with each other. The staff have formed a private Sydney Montana's Facebook page.
On Wednesday, 12 were in the restaurant— with social distancing around the room as required — but helping each other fill out their unemployment forms.
“It’s kind of like the mom, the dad and the uncle," Fogarty said. “We’re just like a big family. Whatever we can do for each other we’re 100 per cent there. We’ve had a few people help each other out already.”
Although a sad move for all businesses, Fogarty understood it was a necessary change at this time.
“What I’ll miss the most is the fun atmosphere when the guests arrive in the restaurant and the birthdays because everybody looks forward to them here and us singing.”
Other restaurants like The Olive Tree on Victoria Road in Sydney have not only been taking measures at their restaurant prior to the announcement — such as social distancing and extreme disinfecting — but had already begun to offer takeout, which they never offered the past two years after seeing public demand for that option. The Olive Tree now is solely offering takeout 3-8 p.m. by phone only.
However, pubs were ordered to close down completely.
In Glace Bay, Main Event owner Mike Jamieson closed down his tavern. Wednesday was the last day, as the doors locked at 7 p.m.
Jamieson said he’s sure if he was closing because he wasn’t doing well, the feeling he has inside would be different. Basically he knows it’s not just his business but everyone’s affected. It’s not going to be easy but he thinks everyone will get through it alright.
“We’re here 40 years, I think we’ll bounce back when it comes back. I’m very optimistic that our customer base will return," he said.
Jamieson said there are worries, there are bills to be paid every week. Days you are not open is revenue you’ll never get back. He has heard the provincial government is working on a plan to help small businesses and employees. His concern is mainly that he has a large staff that is laid off.
“Hopefully they will be able to collect unemployment right away, that’s a big worry on me,” he added.
It’s an occupation that works for minimum wage where the money is made from tips. Jamieson said obviously his staff won’t be making tips and unemployment won’t be much. It’s hoped this won’t last long, he said.
However, he said the government is doing the right thing, these businesses should be closed, they have to get a handle on the coronavirus and stop it now.
Meanwhile, Jamieson leases the kitchen to Janey Boutilier, owner of Kayla’s Pizza. Boutilier said it is a difficult time but the closing of businesses is necessary to help control the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, it’s making an impact on people’s lives. Boutilier said they are offering takeout beginning at noon each day.
“We are trying to do our best to keep everyone happy and safe,” she said.
Phil Dubinsky, owner of the Old Triangle Irish Alehouse on Charlotte Street in Sydney, closed at the first of the week but gathered with some staff Wednesday to officially shut the kitchen down for a while.
“We’ll be freezing some things and giving away some things to staff,” he said. “Then we’ll put some food together and get a hold of Loaves and Fishes and drop some off there.”
Dubinsky described the situation as ‘surreal.’
The alehouse employs 25-30. There are a couple of staff members on salary but most will be laid off, he said. Dubinsky said he hopes the government comes up with ways to help everybody as quickly as possible. The province has announced they will be waiving the waiting period for unemployment benefits.
“It’s something no one has gone through before,” he said. “We’re doing what we have to do — and what we should do — people need to be very cautious. We’ll see where we are in a few weeks or months from now.”