After 17 years, Vito's Restaurant in Saint John has closed the doors on its Rothesay Avenue location.
The location is one of three restaurants owned by the Georgoudis family and the announcement comes just as restaurants in the province are once again ordered to limit seating to 50 per cent capacity at what should be one of the busiest times of the year.
George Georgoudis said pressure from the pandemic has led to the decision to rethink the business model.
"It is the biggest month of the year," said Georgoudis, adding that 70 per cent of the business revenue comes from take-out.
At 175 seats, the Rothesay Avenue location did not fit the restaurant's shifting pandemic survival business model, which focuses more on take-out and catering.
The holiday season usually meant catering to businesses and parties.
But that's changed as more people have cancelled or largely scaled down their plans amid concerns of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Georgoudis said restaurants have been hanging on by a thread for the past 22 months.
"I think what's kept the restaurants open to this point is the federal programs that are in place. Without those federal programs in place, I truly believe a lot of restaurants will pull the pin by now."
Georgoudis fears that those federal supports will dry up.
"You are going to see more businesses decide it's not worth it. It's a roller coaster ride."
"We have to find a model that works, that will be able to provide a service to the consumer," said Georgoudis, noting businesses have been forced to find new innovations and to consider what aspects of the business can be sacrificed.
"But at the same time, that you are able to manage the labour, the number of people employed, the days of running 30 employees, 40 employees... it's not easy, it's not going to be there."
The family plans to find a new third location more suitable to the current needs of the business. It will continue to operate its uptown and Kennebecasis Valley locations.