Regina-area lockdown to further damage small-town budgets

·3 min read

Normally Lumsden’s arty A-framed Centennial Hall is bustling with weddings, karate and seniors getting in their workouts.

Thanks to the fickle, deadly coronavirus, the building is to remain empty, cleaving a growing hole in the town’s budget. New lockdown measures imposed by the provincial government for the Regina area start Sunday.

The town 20 minutes north of the Queen City is in the mix. The restrictions say indoor event venues and halls like Lumsden’s wood-clad communal hub “are not permitted to operate,” if they have 30-person limits.

Mayor Bryan Matheson said, “We are usually filled with weddings every weekend in our hall. All of our community groups use space in the hall.”

Premier Scott Moe’s government announced the lockdown measures Tuesday as an attempt to curtail viral spread of COVID-19’s variant strains in and around the capital.

The affected area includes Balgonie, Belle Plaine, Craven, Davin, Edenwold, Grand Coullee, Gray, Kronau, Lumsden, Lumsden Beach, Pense, Pilot Butte, Regina Beach, Riceton and White City. The RMs of Edenwold, Lajord, Lumsden, Pense and Sherwood are included, too.

In Lumsden, Matheson said the unused community hall won’t be anything new once the lockdown starts; it just means another disincentive for people to book it.

“For the past year now we’ve basically had nothing."

2020 rental revenue for the hall dropped by 54 per cent from the year prior, a loss of $29,225.

The mayor said people in Lumsden are disappointed but not surprised by the new lockdown. “They’re concerned and they’re wondering about how long it’s going to last.”

For now the measures are to end April 5, when they’re to be reviewed.

Down the road in Craven, mayor Scott Montgomery said the village had to refund a wedding party its rental money for the Elk’s Hall, because it recently cancelled.

He said residents are “pretty understanding” over the new measures. “There’s not a whole lot you can do about it. That’s the thing with all of us: We’re kind of used to putting up with things you can’t deal with, like the music festival."

East of Regina in White City, restaurant owner Joel Kish expects he’ll have to lay off three staff members at the Ice House, come Sunday.

The burger and beer joint will be forced to do only delivery and food-pick-up service.

He commended his staff members for shouldering some of the pandemic’s extreme stressors over the past year. “It sucks for them and they know it. But they know it sucks for everybody.”

Kish said food sales have taken a 30-per-cent hit, while liquor sales have dropped 50 per cent over the last year.

His restaurant is now serving 11 tables. It has capacity for 28.

He thinks the newest lockdown measures, which don’t include retail stores, are too narrow in scope.

“I bet you a lot more people are getting COVID from the shopping carts at Wal-Mart, Costco and Superstore, than they are from the restaurants,” he said. “There’s lots of more at-risk places than sitting at a table in a restaurant.”

Evan Radford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Regina Leader-Post, The Leader-Post