Just days after Premier John Horgan unveiled steps toward the reopening of the province’s economy, many Kamloops business owners are left with more questions than answers.
Horgan said shuttered B.C. businesses could reopen in phases, with the first big change expected to take place after the Victoria Day long weekend.
Phase 2 of B.C.’s Restart Plan, as it’s being called, is expected to begin on May 19 and allow for the resumption of non-urgent health services, dentistry and physiotherapy, as well as the reopening of retail stores, restaurants, hair salons, in-person counselling, museums, offices and childcare — at 60 per cent of normal capacity and with physical-distancing or personal protective equipment measures in place.
Arthur Dolmat, who owns Duffy’s Neighbourhood Pub, said it’s hard to plan a reopening with limited information.
“We’re very happy we can reopen, but the thing is I’m still in the dark,” Dolmat told KTW. “When that phase comes that we can open, we need to know all the restrictions and know what is wanted of us.”
Dolmat said he has come up with a few ideas on his own — installing a sink basin near the entrance so guests can wash their hands, making the menu available on smartphones and removing some tables and having guests book reservations online — but other steps will require materials that are hard to come by.
“There are lots of ideas that keep brewing in our head, but we’re going to need gloves, masks, disinfectant, Lysol wipes — which are really hard to get,” he said. “There are so many questions. Right now, I can’t get gloves, wipes or proper masks.”
Supplies are also a big question mark for B.C.’s salon industry — a business sector in which the service provided necessitates close personal contact.
Chrissy Robinson, owner of Blowfish Hair Studio, said that issue is exacerbated by the fact B.C. lacks an apparatus to decide on measures and deliver information to salons.
“We don’t have a governing body anymore,” she told KTW. “The government dissolved it over 10 years ago. That is part of what makes it harder. We are told to go to WorkSafeBC for guidance. We have been told several things about PPE, but nothing solid or direct as of right now.”
Hair salons are expecting a surge in demand when they reopen, but Robinson said she is concerned her business may be overwhelmed.
“I’m not worried about if we have enough clients,” she said. “I am worried about what our restrictions are. If we can’t get to work at our same capacity, but have an overwhelming list of people to get in, it’s going to take us a long time to fit everyone.”
Robinson does not know how it will play out.
“We will do our best, but it will be a different place than it was before with all the extra cleaning and disinfecting,” she said.
“Also, if we need to spend a lot more money on PPE and cleaning supplies than normal, but aren’t allowed to work at our normal pace, then it will take a long time for the business to make money again. This is definitely something we will have to monitor closely. It is stressful.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially stressful for B.C.’s medical-related businesses — dentists, massage therapists, chiropractors and physiotherapists. Their clients have remained in need, but physical-distance guidelines have prevented all but urgent treatment.
Robin Gill, owner of North Kamloops Physiotherapy, said his clinic will reopen on May 19 — the first day it’s allowed to welcome patients.
Gill said he will follow guidelines issued by the College of Physical Therapists of British Columbia, which will limit the number of clients in the office and require the use of PPE as needed, as well as increased sanitation measures.
“We’ve taken a big hit, like everybody,” he said. “We’re glad the government has helped out — EI for staff, the 75 per cent wage benefit.”
Gill said his business will be in “survival mode” when it reopens.
“It will be just to get some service in, but safety is the major priority,” he said. “Again, it’s a very fluid situation. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We just have to keep up with the guidelines. We have to be very adaptable. Being an entrepreneur or a business person, you have to be adaptable. We’ve been here for a while. We have a stable client base. Hopefully, we will make it through this. We just have to have a very straightforward way of doing it.”
Dolmat said he hopes to have more clarity before turning on the open sign at Duffy’s.
“Before this pandemic, it was our responsibility to not let anyone drink too much and make sure nobody would drink and drive,” he said. “But now is it our responsibility to make sure nobody goes over to the next table and gives someone a hug?”