Out of work: Employees of small businesses react to latest lockdown

·2 min read
Meg Messer, a bartender at the 11th Mile restaurant in downtown Fredericton, said she's worried about how the latest lockdown is going to affect her financially and about the impact it could have on mental health.  (Submitted by Meg Messer - image credit)
Meg Messer, a bartender at the 11th Mile restaurant in downtown Fredericton, said she's worried about how the latest lockdown is going to affect her financially and about the impact it could have on mental health. (Submitted by Meg Messer - image credit)

As New Brunswick heads into another lockdown in response to skyrocketing COVID-19 cases, many employees of small businesses are losing work.

Gym employees, restaurant servers, hairstylists and a variety of other workers are finding themselves out of work for a minimum of two weeks.

Many say they're aren't surprised given the case numbers. But they are still frightened about paying the bills, if their job will still be there when they return and what could happen if the latest lockdown lasts more than two weeks.

Submitted by Alyssa Blanchard
Submitted by Alyssa Blanchard

"It's absolutely frustrating," said Alyssa Blanchard, a hairstylist working in Oromocto and Fredericton.

Blanchard said not having an income for two weeks will be the biggest struggle. But the lack of human interaction will be a close second.

"We thrive on human interaction and, to have that taken away, it's obviously to the detriment of people and people's mental health," said Blanchard. "So it is a struggle."

Blanchard said she was diagnosed with COVID-19 about a week ago. She was already isolated prior to the lockdown that began Friday night.

She worries what will happen if the circuit breaker extends beyond the two weeks. But she said having a friend who's a nurse does give her perspective.

"If that helps get the hospitals in a better situation, and helps those nurses out, I feel like I would gladly take the two weeks off to let them get things under control," said Blanchard.

Restaurants hard hit

Under the restrictions, restaurants are only allowed to serve takeout with curbside pickup. That means wait staff and bartenders are out of work.

"The lack of hours kind of freaked me out," said Meg Messer, a bartender at the 11th Mile, a restaurant in downtown Fredericton.

Messer said the business will stay open for takeout and she has faith that the owners are doing their best to insure staff are making some income.

She's less worried about money than she is about how employees in her industry will cope with being out of work again.

"I think mostly … it's the mental health aspect of it that worries me," said Messer.

Submitted by Kanye Eustache
Submitted by Kanye Eustache

A block away at The Provincial, another local restaurant, manager Kanye Eustache said the business is closed for now.

"It's been devastating for some of us," said Eustache. "The bills are not going to stop coming.

"That alone, just being able to afford to pay for bills or food, that becomes challenging," said Eustache.

Eustache said a staff of 20 cooks, wait staff, bartenders and managers are off the job for now.

He said federal COVID-19 benefits help, but it's not a replacement for working.

Eustache said the restaurant may consider curbside pickup next week but trying to compete with delivery services is a tall order.

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