Hospitality Sask. renews calls to support local ahead of Regina restaurants, bars being closed

·4 min read
The Fat Badger is one of the places impacted by public health orders closing bars, restaurants and event centres starting on March 28.  (CBC - image credit)
The Fat Badger is one of the places impacted by public health orders closing bars, restaurants and event centres starting on March 28. (CBC - image credit)

The Fat Badger on Scarth Street in Regina is allowed to be open until Sunday morning at midnight, but instead closed as of 10 p.m. CST on Thursday.

"It's just not worth the risk," Julie Nickerson, the general manager, said.

"We already run on our pretty low staff and at the moment. I have three or four people that are unable to work due to symptoms or other illness, and it's just not worth it to try and stay open."

Nickerson isn't alone. O'Hanlon's Irish Pub, Victoria's Tavern and Leopold's Tavern have all voluntarily shut their doors ahead of the public health order mandating them and other Regina restaurants and bars to close to in-person dining on Sunday.

Nickerson said she isn't laying off staff just yet. Instead they'll be making repairs, tweaking menus and working on setting up the patio.

During the summer, the Fat Badger sets up a patio outside its front doors. That will be one of the projects for staff while the restaurant is closed to in-person dining.
During the summer, the Fat Badger sets up a patio outside its front doors. That will be one of the projects for staff while the restaurant is closed to in-person dining. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Hospitality Saskatchewan renews calls to support local during restrictions

Hospitality Saskatchewan said losing in-person dining is a huge hit to the industry.

"There are many that will hopefully be able to manage through it. If it extends, that becomes more problematic. … For some, even this closure now will have some contemplating closing permanently," Jim Bence, President and CEO of Hospitality Saskatchewan, said.

Bence said the restrictions weren't a large surprise for many in the industry, but are still tough. He said the assistance from the provincial government is good, along with the government capping third-party delivery charges, but that public support would help.

"Regina, if we all do our part as citizens, it will help those restaurateurs get through it," Bence said. "Eat out as much as you can, phone the restaurant directly, avoid the apps and go and pick it up yourself. That will leave the operator with the most amount of margin that they can have during these difficult times."

Event centres, City of Regina recreational centres closing Sunday

The Saskatchewan Science Centre is in a similar situation to the Fat Badger. Event centres like the science centre, bowling alleys, museums, galleries, art venues and "non-essential indoor locations that had limits of 30 individuals" are mandated to close starting on Sunday as well.

Vice president of operations Ryan Holata said the Science Centre has naturally always approached things from a science mentality and closed on Thursday due to the increasing case numbers.

"We're actually supportive of these latest measures in order to keep our staff and our visitors safe and healthy," Holata said. "Going forward, it's a matter of doubling down on a lot of our virtual programming."

The Saskatchewan Science Centre isn't laying people off just yet as they work on virtual programming.
The Saskatchewan Science Centre isn't laying people off just yet as they work on virtual programming. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

The centre isn't laying anyone off in the immediate short term and will try to find a way to keep staff on through the short-term closure by doing training or other projects, Holata said.

The new 'Towers of Tomorrow' LEGO exhibit was supposed to open on Friday.

"But that's not happening right now," Holata said. "What we're going to be focusing on is just taking a third look and making sure of all of the health and safety protocols that we have in place for guests when they do visit LEGO."

The City of Regina is also closing its recreational centres, including the Neil Balkwill Civic Arts Centre, North West Leisure Centre, Sandra Schmirler Leisure Centre and Sportplex Fieldhouse & Lawson Aquatic Centre. The city said in a statement that there are no immediate layoffs.

"Closing City indoor recreation facilities is being done to protect our employees and the community. Employees who are impacted will continue in their regular assignment or receive short-term reassignments," the city said.

Fat Badger prepared for extension of public health orders

The public health orders to close restaurants and event venues are scheduled to be in place until April 5, however at a news conference on Tuesday Premier Scott Moe said it's "likely" they'll be extended.

"If it is extended, then we'll look into doing a more broad takeout option," Nickenson said of the Fat Badger. "Hopefully that's not the case, but if it needs to be, then it needs to be."

Nickerson said she's hopeful the health orders may not last more than a week or two, but that she knows they could go on for as long as a month. She said she's being realistic and preparing to reopen when it's safe.

Holata said the Saskatchewan Science Centre is hoping to return as soon as possible, but only if it's safe.

"Hopefully everyone will take this new public health order as an opportunity to sort of lock down and re-flatten the curve," he said. "I think that if we all do the right thing, that everything will be able to open as soon as possible."