Min Ku misses the smiling faces of his karaoke bar customers, belting out their favourite tunes and letting off steam with friends and family.
"We really miss people, we really miss the genuine happy faces (of) our patrons," said the owner of Galaxy Karaoke in Calgary. "
Like many, Ku fears the economic shutdown will be the end of his business.
And as he told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday, he hopes some karaoke bars will be allowed to safely reopen soon.
Individual microphone covers
"For us, all of these safety measures, in our opinion, are all set up," he said. "So I really want to see government have case-by-case things, rather than black or white."
Galaxy does Korean-style karaoke, and has more than a dozen private rooms of different sizes.
"You book your room ahead of time, amongst your friends and family, and you join in and we assign you a room and you enjoy your time," Ku said, adding that they also offer individual microphone covers for each patron.
Singing is classified as a restricted activity, so karaoke bars will be one of the last places allowed to reopen under Alberta's guidelines.
"Phase 2 still restricts the vocal concerts," Ku said. "So until Phase 3 is announced, we are unable to open."
Ku has been closed for nearly five months. He has benefited from a commercial rent subsidy that his landlord passed along, but that's about to run out.
"(It's) absolutely tough, to be honest with you," Ku said. "Until the Alberta government proposes Phase 3 is going to be opening soon, we're gonna be in deep trouble moving forward."
Galaxy Karaoke is a family-run business. Ku said his parents, who have worked their whole lives, are anxious to get back to it, as are two part-time workers.
Meanwhile, the online reservation system shows that patrons are also anxious to get back to it.
"They do want to come back, and especially once Phase 1 and Phase 2 is starting to open up, they sort of assume that karaoke bars are open — because, you know, it is a bar in the end," he said. "So I've been getting a lot of reservation requests … I unfortunately have to decline all of these requests."
Ku says he assumes other karaoke bars are in the same boat and are waiting for word that they can safely reopen.
"Obviously, karaoke is part of stress relief, so I can only imagine so much stress that's so built up during this pandemic, and especially when we have to quarantine for the past, you know, three to four months," he said.
"So I can't wait to see those faces and have the patrons come into our doors and just smile."
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.