Pandemic-related staff shortages and new restrictions have disrupted things for Whitehorse restaurants, but operators say goodwill from regulars and other diners is key to keeping them afloat.
Due to climbing COVID-19 cases in the territory, the government brought in new restrictions on Jan. 18 that mandated bars and restaurants close by 10:00 p.m. They also have to limit table size to six people from a maximum of two households.
The disruption caused by the restrictions and staff challenges led to reduced hours, smaller menus and, in the case of two restaurants, a temporary merger.
Wood Street Ramen will be operating out of the Night Market on 2nd Ave. The restaurants, which have owners in common, made the move as a way of keeping the businesses viable.
Kurt Beutler, the general manager of Wood Street Ramen, said the location on Wood Street wasn’t viable for dine-in because the small dining room wouldn’t have allowed them to space out tables. After rushing to get takeout service back up and running at the Night Market location he said they were able to reopen for dine-in service on Jan. 20.
“Now since being here, all our regulars are coming here to pick up,” he said of the new location.
Beutler said the full-time Wood Street Ramen staff have been able to keep working, either doing prep work at the original location or cooking orders at Night Market.
“We’re doing everything we’ve been asked to. I feel like you need to have your vaccinations, to come you have to have your passports. If they’re sick, I think most people are staying home anyway,” Beutler said of the new restrictions.
“It’s becoming almost redundant; it doesn’t make sense.”
Confusion over the new lists of restrictions on restaurants and gatherings was also felt at Polarity Brewing. Polarity’s general manager Evelyn Martel said she had to make a call to a Yukon government hotline for clarification about what capacity limits for restaurants would actually be when gatherings were limited. Martel noted that she and other restaurants found out about the new restrictions through a press release that went out to the public and there was no communication with restaurants ahead of time.
She said everyone wants to stay safe but the government could be doing more to support restaurants and offer information.
Martel said Polarity had recently returned their hours to closer to normal after COVID-19-related staffing issues led to a shorter opening earlier in the month. The brewery is back with a reduced menu.
Polarity was not alone in seeing a brief upset of the routine due to staff shortages. Wayfarer Oyster House closed its dining room amid a staffing crunch over the week of Jan. 10 — it is now back to its regular hours within the confines of the new restrictions.
While Martel described things as very touch and go amid the shifting restrictions she said Polarity’s clientele has been very understanding and appreciative that it is open.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org