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Businesses scaling back, shuttering doors

[Joe Merlihan]

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many businesses have changed the way they serve customers or shuttered their doors completely.

Premier Doug Ford declared the province was in a state of emergency early Tuesday morning. As such, events of more than 50 people are banned until March 31, and bars and restaurants are to close, unless they offer take-out or delivery.

A number of retailers have also opted to close their doors, with the likes of IKEA and Gap joining a long list of businesses recognizing concerns about public gatherings, their staff safety and the economic downturn, with economists predicting a 10 per cent hit to GDP.

“Our top priority during these challenging times continues to be health and safety. Our communities are working hard to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and to support these efforts, we will temporarily close all stores across the country to support social distancing efforts and based on recommendations from local health authorities,” said IKEA Canada CEO Michael Ward, whose company has some 7,300 employees, in a release.

As of today (March 19), retail operations at Gap, Old Navy and related retail operations will shut down through the end of the month.

“To assist the efforts underway to slow the spread of the coronavirus, we are closing all stores in North America for the next two weeks,” said Gap Inc. CEO Sonia Syngal in a statement. “Our focus remains on supporting the health and livelihood of our employees, while caring for our customers and communities. We will provide our impacted store employees with pay continuity and benefits during this two-week period. And, together, we look forward to welcoming our customers back in our stores soon.”

Also as of today, LCBO stores will be operating at reduced hours, from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily. This measure follows previous action taken to elevate store cleaning and sanitization protocols and increased prevention awareness amongst employees, the company said in an announcement this week.

Delivery options remain available to customers, though customers will have to follow pick up directions provided by Canada Post for home deliveries.

Stores are not accepting product returns. Customers wishing to make returns should hold on to products and receipts as all eligible returns will be honoured at a future date.

Recognizing the economic downturn, Canada’s six largest banks have announced plans to provide financial relief to Canadians impacted by the economic consequences of COVID-19.

Effective immediately, Bank of Montreal, CIBC, National Bank of Canada, RBC Royal Bank, Scotiabank and TD Bank have made a commitment to work with personal and small business banking customers on a case-by-case basis to provide flexible solutions to help them manage through challenges such as pay disruption due to COVID-19; childcare disruption due to school closures; or those facing illness from COVID-19.

This support will include up to a six-month payment deferral for mortgages, and the opportunity for relief on other credit products, the banks said in a joint release.

“Individual Canadians or business owners facing hardship are encouraged to contact their bank directly to discuss options that could be available to them.”

In a move that will also have an impact on the hospitality industry locally, Home Hardware Stores Ltd. last week announced the cancellation of its 2020 Spring Market today, which was set to be held in Waterloo Region on April 5-7.

“The health and safety of the Home Hardware community, our dealer-owners, team members, suppliers, business partners, and customers is, and will always be, our number-one priority,” said company CEO and president Kevin Macnab in a release. “We understand that this is the first time in Home’s 56-year history that a market has been cancelled. This event hosts over 7,500 attendees from across the country and we believe this precaution is necessary.

“This was a difficult decision, but the safety of our Home Hardware community and those in the Waterloo Region is paramount,” he added.

Business is already down significantly at hotels in the region, and restaurants have been directed to reduce their operations. Changes for local restaurants in the area are listed below.

The Elmira Sip and Bite has closed their doors immediately until further notice.

Kitchen Kuttings in Elmira will only be offering takeout to customers. Dine-in will not be offered due to COVID-19.

All Tim Hortons locations will not be offering dine-in and will be focusing on drive-thru,

McDonald’s Canada will only offer drive-thru, take-out and McDelivery.

Jack’s Family Restaurant in St. Jacobs will be closed “until the worst of the COVID-19 epidemic is over,” reads a post on their Facebook page. They will re-open as soon as it is deemed safe.

The Central Tavern in Elmira will be operating for take-out and pickup orders only from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The dining room will be closed until further notice.

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