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Halifax restaurant owners split on mandated closure during COVID's second wave

May 7, 2020
A normally bustling bar scene on Argyle Street in Halifax has taken a hit during the pandemic. The Chronicle Herald
The bar and restaurant district on Halifax's Argyle Street. - Ryan Taplin / File

Halifax restaurant owners are split on whether to close as a second wave of COVID threatens.

Some are shutting voluntarily, one industry lobby group is urging restaurants to close and another says public health experts should decide.

Luc Erjavec, Restaurant Canada’s vice-president for the Atlantic region, said Tuesday morning he is not going to prejudge public health officials and experts in epidemiology. 

“I’m going to let them decide what is the right public health measure to protect Nova Scotians and (restaurant) staff. We’ve worked closely with them throughout this crisis and we’re going to follow their lead, whatever that may be,” Erjavec said.

“That being said, there have been many operators that have chosen to close down voluntarily, (because of) their really terrible sales numbers — it’s collapsed the last week or two — and that fails to justify being open. Staff are concerned about coming to work, so they’re choosing to do so voluntarily and that’s up to the individual business. Every business is different and has different circumstances.” 

Erjavec said if health experts decide all Halifax restaurants should close for a period of time, he would support that decision and give guidance to his members, many of whom he has spoken to on the topic over the last 24 hours. 

“And they vary, they’re completely different,” he said.  “P.E.I. and Newfoundland are very different situations, they’re not having the crisis of consumer confidence that Halifax or Moncton or Saint John would have, just like some areas of New Brunswick or Yarmouth, Nova Scotia or Sydney, Nova Scotia are a completely different situation.” 

One chef said Tuesday morning that he expects Dr. Robert Strang and Premier Stephen MacNeil to address the Halifax restaurant situation at their news conference scheduled for this afternoon. 

Erjavec said he wants to remind the public that people don’t catch COVID from a restaurant. 

“What’s happening is that someone who may or may not have the disease, is asymptomatic or not, is coming to a place where people gather and putting others at risk. So, it’s not that the restaurants or bars are doing anything wrong, we happen to be a place where people gather, not any different from a gym or a hardware store or a grocery store.” 

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