Halifax businesses, arts groups scramble with unprecedented cancellations

Halifax businesses and arts groups are scrambling to adjust as they grapple with the unprecedented uncertainty brought on by COVID-19.

Some of the immediate impacts have have been cancelled cruises, businesses scaling back on work trips, and Neptune Theatre and Symphony Nova Scotia putting a halt to their seasons.

The head of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, Gordon Stewart, said restaurants are bracing for major change.

“They know it’s going to be big and they know it’s going to be tough,” he told CBC’s Mainstreet. “But we have to do the right thing here and I think the right thing is is protecting the public and protecting their own employees.”

On Friday, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health recommended that to limit the potential spread of the virus, social gatherings should have no more than 150 people. The province has had zero confirmed cases to date.

Brendan Doherty, co-owner of the Old Triangle in Halifax, says they’ll start counting patrons to make sure they have fewer than 150 people in the establishment. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

The recommendation sparked immediate cancellations in the arts community. Neptune Theatre and Symphony Nova Scotia are asking that people donate the value of the tickets they’ve already purchased in exchange for tax receipts.

“This is devastating for us,” said Lisa Bugden, the general manager of the Neptune Theatre Foundation.

“This is a very difficult decision for Neptune, but we also recognize it’s the right decision for our community, both our patrons as well as everyone that works and supports Neptune.”

Without people going to events, Stewart said restaurants will be on the front line of the financial pinch. He said some restaurants that have a much larger capacity are going to start counting and limiting customers.

“Some restaurants are actually removing tables and chairs so that there’s some more distance in between the restaurants, which I think is a noble idea to do overall,” he said.

Lisa Bugden, the general manager of the Neptune Theatre Foundation, says shutting down Neptune’s season is ‘devastating.’ (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

Neptune Theatre in Halifax is hoping people will take their tickets for cancelled shows and exchange them to get tax receipts. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

At the Old Triangle in Halifax, the limit comes just before one of their busiest days of the year: St. Patrick’s Day.

Co-owner Brendan Doherty said they’re going to start counting patrons to make sure they stay under 150 people, which is lower than their capacity.

“It’s not something we’re used to doing, but it’s something that’s necessary,” he said.

The Old Triangle will ask any of its staff who have been away to also follow the advice for public servants and self-isolate for 14 days.

“This is something that no one’s ever dealt with before, so we’re really just following the advice of the experts and if that’s what they recommend and that’s what they’re implementing, it just makes sense for us to do it as well,” he said.

Hockey no longer the talk of the shop

While they typically wouldn’t get paid for that time, Doherty said the bar is seeing what it can do to help them out.

Doherty said they’re also implementing a strict cleaning schedule. Servers with free time will focus on cleaning everything from handrails to the backs of chairs.

“We used to sit around and talk about the hockey game and now we just, you know, sanitize things,” he said.

Stewart is hoping people will continue to support local businesses by purchasing gift cards or ordering takeout.


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