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COVID-19: The impact of the pandemic on the Kamloops business community

CVNoblePig
Noble Pig and Forno on Fifth co-owner and operations manager Maeghan Summers in an altered Noble Pig. (via Brendan Kergin)

As new changes are announced each day from different levels of government, the Kamloops business community is working to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press release first issued yesterday evening, a variety of local organizations announced they are working together to create streamlined communications and provide tools for business owners during the coming weeks. It involves representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, City of Kamloops, Tourism Kamloops, downtown and North Shore business associations, Venture Kamloops, Community Futures — Thompson Country and Kamloops Airport.

"The common goal is to ensure Kamloops’ business stakeholders receive relevant and timely information and are provided important and necessary tools to endure this crisis," states the release.

"We just really recognize there's a ton of info out there right now and for business owners, it can be difficult to manage that flow of information," chamber executive director Acacia Pangilinan tells KamloopsMatters.

That includes information about what's coming in terms of government assistance. Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced measures are forthcoming, but Pangilinan says bureaucracy can be difficult to navigate.

"This sounds great, but for businesses to actually take advantage of these programs, it can be difficult," she says.

Jeremy Heighton, executive director of the North Shore Business Improvement Association, agrees, calling relief the "big question."

"We don't exactly know what it's going to look like even in two days," he says.

He adds the uncertainty of the pandemic makes it difficult for business owners to adapt.

"We're just trying to figure out how to communicate in the most accurate manner," he says. "We're all working together to make sure we have one portal for information, one stream."

Maegan Summers, co-owner of Noble Pig and Forno on Fifth, was originally planning on reducing hours, staff and seating at the two restaurants, but has made the decision to shut down completely.

She says the decision is based on community safety and keeping employees (of which there are more than 120).

"We are closing Forno and the Noble Pig, effective immediately, and will reopen when it's safe to do so," she says.

In an interview prior to that decision, she said it was an option and something they may need to do in the near future.

"Watching what happened in Italy, watching what's happening in the U.S. and now watching the announcements in Vancouver, in regards to restaurant closure (orders), I strongly suspect something of that nature will be coming down that pipeline," she said. "I want to be optimistic as a business operator, but that being said, the safety our community, the safety of our team and the safety of the patrons that come to the Noble Pig and Forno on Fifth are our top priorities."

At the time, she had been in contact with staff about schedules and support as hours were cut.

"A lot of these individuals are 19 or 20 and this is there first time living on their own, or they're students," she said. "If they don't have family around them, how are they going to take care of themselves? It's been an interesting conversation lately."

Summer notes that stress in a crisis can make people act oddly, as well. Staff at the Noble Pig have noticed toilet paper has been stolen from the pub's stalls.

She says the decision to close came after conversations with other restaurant operators in the community who are deciding on their own plans, adding that she'd rather be a community leader than following.

Today, the Commodore on Victoria Street announced on social media it's closing as well.

"Although this will cause us a tremendous financial burden, we feel it is the best course of action, due to the nature of our business. The safety of our employees, patrons, and general public is the most important aspect of this entire situation," reads a statement on Facebook.

Heighton says he's unaware of closures on the North Shore, but that he'd be walking the Tranquille Corridor today to check on places, and knows the situation is fluid for each business owner. One thing he has observed is business looking at delivery options, and says a list is forthcoming about which business are doing what.

"We think that if we have the right mix of options in the community, that our business owners will be at least able to work their way through," he says.

He says that many small local businesses rarely have more than a few customers at a time, so some may not be as affected as others.

"The reality is we don't even know what tomorrow looks like," he tells KamloopsMatters. "At this point, business is still open."

Pangilinan says a survey the chamber has issued shows the concern in the business community. While ongoing, early results show 81 per cent of respondents are very impacted, and 83 per cent are already noticing financial impacts.

"We want to make sure our business owners know what resources are available," she says. "I think at the end of the day, we're all coming from the place we want the bus community to be resilient."

Are you a local business that is closing temporarily or changing your hours? Let us know. Email news@kamloopsmatters.com.

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