Businesses feeling the pinch on first day of new restrictions

As businesses in Ottawa face their first day of new COVID-19 restrictions Sunday, many owners say the light at the end of the tunnel just got that much further away.

Retailers and hospitality businesses are among the hardest impacted, as the Ontario government caps capacity at 50 per cent. Gordon Gifford, co-owner of the Savoy Brasserie in Westboro, says Omicron was already affecting business, but the new rules will hit hard.

“It’s cut our Christmas business down significantly. This is a huge time of year for us, so going to 50 per cent capacity when we were at max for most of December, we are literally cut in half,” Gifford said. “Traditionally, the third week of December is where we make the big money and this week it’s not going to happen.”

Mandy Gosewich, owner of Stunning in the ByWard Market, sees the new rules as a painful necessity; her shop is less than 400 square feet, so space was always limited. She sees this as a way to offer an even more intimate shopping experience.

“If we do what is asked of us, maybe this will help us not have another lockdown, which you really you hope, right?” Gosewich said. “I’m lucky I’m still here, that after almost nine years of being in business I’ve gotten through what I hope is the worst of it, but it’s still frightening it still keeps me up at night.”

Business leaders are calling on all levels of government for support, hoping federal and provincial programs return to help weather this newest COVID storm. Small business advocate Michael Wood says with consumer confidence slumping and business debt levels still on the rise, governments need to step in and offer help.

“It’s going to be another lean Christmas for a lot of retailers in our city. There are a lot of small businesses—restaurants and hospitality, especially, are severely struggling,” Wood said. “If we are going to be doing this, small businesses need more financial support.”

Even with government support, Wood says the best way to help local businesses continues to be spending your hard-earned dollars locally.

“All we can ask of people in the city of Ottawa is to please continue to support us. Our livelihoods depend on you. We thank you for spending your time and money with us.”