How are restaurants and nightlife adapting to the pandemic?

Joining CUI host Mary W. Rowe for our ongoing series of candid conversations – How are restaurants and nightlife adapting to the pandemic? – are Alicia Scholer, Vice President of the Responsible Hospitality Institute; Matt Webber, owner of Berkeley North; Patrick Watt, Senior Partner, Foodservice and Strategy Expert at J.C. Williams Group; Chef Vikram Vij, owner at Vij’s Restaurants group; and Wendy Nicolay, co-owner of Cascade Restaurant Group. 

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Food as community

Food brings people together, and restaurants have long been spaces to gather, facilitate relationships, and build community. The impact of COVID in the restaurant industry has therefore not only been financial, but also social. Restaurants contribute to the vibrancy of our streets, to creating sociable cities. They are opened to be full and bustling, not largely empty. Institutions in hospitality have been shuttering their doors, which is a hit to our communities. Going forward, making customers feel safe and secure will be a key part of creating a positive customer experience.

2. The essential role of takeout

Takeout has been an essential part of the restaurant industry’s ability to survive during the pandemic, but has come with its own set of challenges. While some restaurants are well equipped and experienced with preparing food to go, others have had to shift on a dime. Menus have had to be adapted. Demand for takeout follows different timing patterns than on site dining generally does, not necessarily congregating around lunch and dinner time. Joining delivery apps has significant financial implications. And there is a significant long-term environmental impact of waste creation at this scale.

3. The adaptation of public space and importance of accessibility

The extension of patios in public space is key to allowing restaurants to operate at capacity, and different climates will face different challenges moving forward as the weather changes. While building a patio is a relatively affordable adaptation, providing heating is not. Changes to allow us to go out safely are happening fast, but they must prioritize accessibility. Visually impaired individuals may depend on memorized street layouts to navigate; changes to public space can be jarring. Adaptations must ensure access for wheelchairs and strollers and not exacerbate accessibility challenges. Closing roads entirely impacts who can access spaces.

4. The unique challenges of nightlife

Nightlife has been completely decimated by Covid; going forward will require a broadening of the idea of nightlife. Cities with nighttime organizations or night mayors have been the most successful at creating relief initiatives. Extensions into public space and loosened alcohol restrictions have been key, but aren’t an option for venues that don’t have food service, such as live music venues and dance clubs. The creativity of the nighttime economy has been and will be essential for its recovery. In some areas, bars have been reopened only to be forced to close again – this start and stop approach has been challenging.

5. The importance of collaboration for new policy solutions

Governmental support has been essential for restaurants and their staff during this time, and will continue to be as they rebuild. There is a need for landlords, business owners, and governments to come to the table and work together to ensure that businesses are able to survive. The push to remove red tape and make things happen has brought about some changes that have been pushed for years. Cities purchasing music venues, offering tax relief, capping takeout delivery fees, and changing alcohol regulations are examples of solutions coming out of this time. Collaboration must continue to occur.

Full Panel

Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to with “transcription” in the subject line.

Mary Rowe [00:00:21] Hi, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute.


[Introduction removed]


Mary Rowe Matt, tell us everything. What do you think? What are you dealing with? Tell us.


Matt Webber [00:05:29] All right. Well, thank you for having me on the show. It’s absolutely amazing. Great opportunity to be able to speak about my industry a little bit and to also hear from some other wonderful people and hear how the rest of the country is going about this. I am the owner of Berkley North Restaurant in Hamilton, Ontario. We’ve been open for four years now. So just as we were getting into the groove of things, the whole world kind of changed pretty quickly. But Hamilton is a very interesting space with respect to the restaurant industry that we are quite young in having a restaurant scene. We’ve always I know growing up in Hamilton, traveled a lot to Toronto to check out their scene growing up. And now we have our own that we’re very proud of. And I’m very lucky to be in an area where we call Restaurant Row, which is downtown Hamilton, which has about eight really good quality restaurants that have been around for that last three or four years. And now we’ve seen massive change. Our downtown core is a CBD. So we’re normally filled with a lot of business people and a lot of suits and ties, we’d like to say, coming out for lunch for their meetings. And that is slowly, slowly, slowly coming back, but not really there. So it is made the restaurants have to make some pretty big changes in terms of hours of operation, what they are offering and the entire package. Really, my restaurant, we closed for one week during the mandatory one week shutdown and we went from a restaurant that specialized in small plates, tapas style sharing to reopening that week after focus more on our lunch menu, which is a little bit more casual plates and takeout friendly food, which really pushed us out of our comfort zone from what we were known for and our clientele expected. But we were able to kind of quickly pivot to offer that, as well as some other interesting options in terms of market and produce. And we call it our essentials to create additional revenue streams during this time. And then since we’ve been open are able to open up on our patio, we’re one of the few in the city that are very blessed to have patio space and exciting, which I’m excited to talk about too, our city, shut down our major street and are with the help of our counselors, our local BIA and the city. We’ve shut it down, put out a whole bunch of cool and cute patio tables and little dining sets and been able to service a large amount of people outside on our streets.


Mary Rowe [00:08:16] How many seats in your restaurant, Matt?


Matt Webber [00:08:17] Normally forty seven.


Mary Rowe [00:08:20] Wow. And you and you had a week where people sat there and then they were gone.


Matt Webber [00:08:25] Yeah, well, we had we had luckily, like, we were a popular restaurant up into the lead up of this. But with my forty seven seats, I only had a twelve seat patio and restrictions that came out to try and put seats on my patio, I was looking at between four and six seats on my patio. So thankfully, with the assistance of the shut down of the street, we’ve been able to get pretty close to that 40 seats back. So I am in a very, very small percentage that is blessed to be able to have an opportunity to get back some of that missing revenue.


Mary Rowe [00:09:02] Right. OK. Let’s keep going to the people that are actually running places. Wendy, talk to us about you.


Wendy Nicolay [00:09:08] Oh, good morning, everyone. My name’s Wendy Nicolay. I’m from Vancouver, B.C.. I’m a co-owner in the Cascade Restaurant Group and Main Street Brewing. So we’ve sort of seen this whole shutdown from two sides. As restaurants, were pretty decimated. We were closed for two months. And then we’re also a manufacturing and a wholesaler of beer. So we lost our business in terms of selling to the restaurant industry. So we lost that market and we lost our tasting room. So it was a real challenge to turn everything around. Just in the first few weeks, we tried to pivot to take out, which we’ve never really done before, so that was really challenging and a costly thing and hard to jump on when you’ve never been known for that. The beer business, though, however, thank God for the local people and the delivery services because that saved us. If you don’t have a listing in a government liquor store, the government liquor store shut us all down too, all the local breweries. If you didn’t have a listing, we didn’t even have that revenue source. So it’s been a lot of pushing with help from the craft beer guild. Everybody here has been just gunning for liquor delivery, getting our license beer in stores. So for us, it was challenging on two fronts, being the wholesaler and then being the restaurants. As far as the restaurants go, fortunately out here in B.C., we’ve had it relatively easy in terms of COVID. We got to reopen after the May long weekend to indoor dining to have capacity, and that was challenging. And then our BIA, a big shout out to them in Mount Pleasant. He’s – Neil Wyles – has been amazing at really pushing the city to get us our curbside patios. And without that, I just don’t see how it would have been sustainable. So now we’ve got our curbside patios at a couple of our places. The city’s really stepped up even in a in a specific area where we have a rush hour lane and we’ll be getting curbside seating there. So everything’s just moving really fast right now. Every day different. We’re getting news updates on what we can do, what we can’t do. So it’s just a stepping up every chance we can and jumping on every opportunity that’s given to us right now to keep it coming in. Because our restaurants are fairly small. We’re eighty five, ninety five seats. So when you look at distancing measures in your space as they’ve taken away the half capacity, but when you’ve got a small space, you’re really still running at half capacity or less when you’re trying to keep people two meters apart. And we’re finding most people are still going out in twos, fours. You might have a nice big table of six, but you’ve got a two in there. So you’re still running at really low numbers. So I’m hopeful that the summer we’re gonna get some sun in Vancouver and we’ll get to use our curbside patios and we’ll see this through.


Mary Rowe [00:12:07] Yeah, there is that. I want to come back and talk to you about how you guys are paying your staff. But let’s go now. We’ll stay on the West Coast and go to Vikram who has a couple of restaurants as well in Vancouver. So we’re glad to have a couple of Vancouver voices because your BC is at a different stage of opening than other parts of Canada. So Matt isn’t in the stage that you guys are at. And then when we go to the US we’ll hear from Patrick, in terms of what’s going on in New Brunswick and then Alicia is going to give us even a broader perspective. But Vikram talk to us about your experience with your restaurants in Vancouver.


Vikram Vij [00:12:36] First of all, Namaste everybody. You know, it was not really difficult on on financial terms and the fact that we lost a business. As a chef or as the owners of restaurants you know, you don’t open restaurant so that they could be half full. You open restaurants because you want to be packed and bulging out of it. Look, we we love the gluttony of the fact that people are just waiting to come into your restaurants. I don’t think anybody ever thinks that restaurant industry was going to be hit so badly. You know, any other industry, whether it’s car or a fashion industry, people say, well, there’s recession. People are not buying expensive things, but people still have always a place to go out for dinner because that’s what people socially do. And the fact that this social activity was shut down because of a pandemic put an emotional toll on all of us. So for me, having to sit down with my kitchen staff who were immigrant ladies who come from India to say to them after twenty five years that you have to go on unemployment insurance or get some other help was an emotionally a very, very tough time for us personally for me as well. Financially, obviously, you know, we’re going to hopefully recover as people support you. We were able to do take out because I serve a cuisine that is very good and easy to transport. So you put a curry in a box and the rice and naan and it was totally manageable, you know, and it worked really well for us in that sense, especially from the My Shanti restaurant. The locals really supported us there and also had Vij’s downtown. I did lose one of the restaurants to COVID, because it didn’t make sense for me to have two restaurants next to each other running half the capacity. So we amalgamated one restaurant into Vij’s Rangoli and Vij’s together and created a menu that is, you know, a mixture of both places, a little bit of lunch and a little bit of dinner. The biggest challenge that I think we are going to find is getting the consumer confidence to say we have done our due diligence. We are taking care of everybody because it is so much information whether should the staff should wear masks, whether they should not wear masks. It is so much information and it’s almost like moving all the time. It literally is an interpretation of what the owner wants to do or what the chef wants to do. So where I think the government has done a fantastic job of keeping us abreast, keeping us safe, especially in British Columbia. And the frontline workers have done an extremely good job of taking care of the people and they were ready for the preparedness for this. But it’s a moving post. I don’t think anybody knows and I don’t think anybody will be able to tell exactly what’s going to happen until we find a solution, which is, you know, a cure for this. But then again, this is going to mutate into something else and then there’s something else that’s coming. My only thing I would say is – I think the takeout business, even though it was great from a financial point of view – I think the amount of wastage that we have put on this earth is absolutely astronomical, the amount of containers and plastics we’ve done. So, yeah. We may have saved thousands and millions of lives today, here, but we have hurt our planet so much. And so badly.


Mary Rowe [00:16:22] That’s sobering, sobering. A little unintended consequence. OK. So those are the three vendors who are actually running restaurants and then we’ve got two folks who can give us some sort of critical analysis about what they’re seeing in the industry at large. So Alicia, let’s go to you first and then we’ll go to Patrick. Talk to us about your perspective on this.


Alicia Scholer [00:16:41] Sure. Hey, everyone. My name is Alicia Scholer. I’m with the Responsible Hospitality Institute based in Santa Cruz County, California. And so in response to COVID 19, we’ve put together kind of the sociable city vision innovation teams to find out what’s going on, on the ground and also to start reimagining nightlife or what we like to call life at night. So, as you know, nightlife has really been decimated by the pandemic. Cities that have been fortunate enough to have organized hospitality associations or nightlife associations or night time economy managers and night mayors on the ground, have been absolutely critical in creating relief initiatives for the hospitality industry, as well as advocating to their states for specific initiatives to loosen alcohol regulations. Many of you, it seems like have benefit benefited from alcohol to go initiatives. Iowa was actually the first state to make this a permanent fixture of hospitality. And it’s very interesting in the times and as as Matt and Wendy mentioned, with outdoor patios, that has really become the prevalent approach to expanding capacity during this time of reduced occupancy limits. So we’ve seen any this approach ranging from kind of extensions of patios into the streets and sidewalks being organized by BIAs or business improvement districts, as we call them here. And it has also there’s also been a range of trends where create where initiatives have been created to kind of have more of a Bourban Street model. And that has had its challenges with open carrying of beverages in a district. Unfortunately, certain types of venues have not been able to benefit from these types of initiatives, especially dance clubs or live music venues that don’t have food service. So they can’t take advantage of that alcohol to go or extensions into the public space. However, what we have seen that since nightlife is such a creative industry, we have seen some really incredible redesigns and really interesting ideas for bringing back sociability inside spaces. Unfortunately, in the US, there has definitely been a cautionary tale of nightlife, being able, being allowed to reopen and then being forced to close close again prior to the 4th of July weekend, which we just had recently, six states actually closed thousands of bars and clubs on either a county wide basis or a statewide basis. And I’d be happy to share what we believe are some of some of the issues that that led to that. And what we can do in the future to prevent something like that from happening. But that start and stop approach has been extremely difficult for this industry to be able to survive.


Mary Rowe [00:19:38] I’ll come back to you on that. And are you suggesting there is an organization called the Sociable City where you produced a report?


Alicia Scholer [00:19:44] It’s actually it’s it’s a network that we have created a sociable city network. And it’s kind of a phrase that we’re trying to use to broaden people’s perspective of nightlife from a focus on alcohol consumption, thinking about their cities, sociability options in terms of being sociable.


Mary Rowe [00:20:01] I like that the sociable city network. And Patrick, I’m going to come to you next, but just before I do, I’ll just remind people that CUI this is bring back Main Street Week at CUI. And because we have a big project called Bring Back Main Street and it’s at And it’s all about the vibrancy of the street. And we we started it because we were aware that everybody has an attachment to some place. It may not actually be a main street. It could be a mall. It could be a four corners. But one of the things that we we’re awakening to is that we rely on those streets for a sense of identity, but also safety, and that if you have lots of activity, you know, the old Jane Jacobs adage, eyes on the street are what, secure a street to make it safe. And when you didn’t have in the early days the pandemic, I would walk my street, which is a main corridor street in Toronto, which I would walk comfortably prior to COVID at any time. But I found increasingly that I was not comfortable walking in the evening because there weren’t enough eyes on the street. So as you suggest, sociability, if it’s if sociability is taken from us, as Vik was just suggesting, we lose our our sense of ourselves, don’t we? So, OK, Patrick, let’s go to you in St. John. Talk to us about your perspective as a consultant who’s often providing advice and looking for solutions and I know are working with us on Bring Back Main Street. Give us your experience.


Patrick Watt [00:21:16] Yes, I’m a I’m a retail while I’m a food service consultant by long term trade and also have moved into the retail strategy with our strategy team at John Williams Group. And we do do work across the country. And although I’m in St John, I am doing still doing work across the country. We have taken a war on the whole concept of social distancing. We like social interaction with physical distancing is our preference because the concept of social distancing kind of breaks that sociability that we’re talking about. The other thing that we’re trying to bring to the forefront of retail and food services, we all have to do these protocols and safety, but they’re all part of customer service and safety of your client is part of customer service and it’s always been there. This is just a new way of treating it. So as you put your protocols in and think about all these safety issues, two things. Number one is how can you do it so the customer doesn’t feel – feel safe? It’s not an alien environment. How can you do it so that they can walk in and feel comfortable so they’ll stay longer and buy more? That’s our goal still with retail and food service. So that’s that’s one of the things we like to talk about. We like to from a main street point of view, we’d like to see some some alignment of hours for nightlife. So maybe the traditional retail patterns can change on our hours of operation because people are at home instead of in businesses. So where our society is built that everyone getting off at 5:00 and going somewhere. Maybe that’s not actually what’s happening now, because with people working at home, so can the BIAs and the Main Street start aligning shoppers, galleries, restaurants and that type of thing for the to to bring more people onto the street at once instead of trying to look at traditional retail hours? You know, that’s that’s one thing we’re talking about. Parking is another one – is people, what we’re seeing is people want quick convenience access to the places they’re going. So Main Street has a real advantage there. You think of a mall and how many doors you have may have to open to go to an operation where if you’re on Main Street, I can park and walk directly to your door and come in. There’s less touch points. So it’s something that you can promote as the reduction of touch points for your for your place. Now, in New Brunswick, we’ve had very low incurrence of COVID. So we’ve been lucky and we’re reopen. But one of the, you know, Atlantic Canada is basically reopened. But one of the interesting things in New Brunswick is they didn’t go for the 50 percent. They went for the, they went for the fact that you can maintain distancing, physical distancing with social interaction. So basically they use a combination of physical distancing. So I have a client who went only went from 80 seats to 60 seat by use and hanging plexiglass puts put some black plexiglass on top of his his his on the backs of his, you know, booths and. But real important is the staggering of the door. Reservations. So when you use your reservation system instead of every half an hour or fifteen, it maybe every five minutes or every 10 minutes. But and giving clear instructions, because that’s one of the major cross points, is the door. So that’s one of the things that we’ve looked at. The other is with, with takeout. Takeout is it’s very unpredictable for someone who’s traditionally a sit down restaurant. So we you know, you’re used to kind of a supper hour and a lunch hour. And takeout can happen anytime during the day and in the middle of a rush hour where you’re seeing still taking care of your seats. If takeout happens, it can really throw a wrench in the wheel. So, you know, some help with your restauranteurs on Main Street and then your district is some of your members is helping them get an order platform that works, a simple app, helping them understand you don’t have to serve your whole menu in a takeout environment, shrink it down to things that can come up quick or not hold up your line and your cooking line. Menu strategies that if you’re going to have takeout, why not build it so for the future? And that’s I guess, where I’ll close is all of this – really, the BIA’s, the main streets, and the planning. Well, the reason we have flattened the curve is to prepare everybody for the next wave and the next wave and the next wave. And so you have to be you can’t just be thinking about getting through this. You have to be ready for moving ahead. So can the BIA help everybody take an inventory and stay on board, show their area is meeting these protocols. So when the next wave comes, they can lobby and say, look, we know we’re safe. We know we’re doing these protocols. We know we’re doing all the things we need to do. So the members don’t have to do it individually. So there are some ideas that we’ve been working on across Canada and here in New Brunswick.


Mary Rowe [00:26:11] If anybody had a doubt that you’re from New Brunswick, they just need to listen to your accent for a bit of time there, Patrick, and I’ll get the picture.


Patrick Watt [00:26:18] Easy now.


Mary Rowe [00:26:20] You know, I want to talk just, Alicia just bear with us for a second while we talk Canadian stuff for a second. But I don’t know if you’re familiar with what’s been happening here, but I want to hear from the three owners of the three restaurant owners about the impact of income support for workers. We have a national program which is still in place called CERB, and that is paying Canadians who whose work evaporated a minimum amount of money every month. And many of them are continuing to collect it. And in fact, some restaurateurs are telling me that the only way they because restaurants depend on part time staff that the only way that they are probably going to be able to get their staff back is if CERB is extended. And so you continue to get that minimum income from the government and then you top it up with your restaurant wages. Can I just hear from Matt or Vik or Wendy, how your how are your staff responding to actually coming back to work and how do you see the math working? Basically.


Vikram Vij [00:27:18] Let me start by saying that let me start by saying that I think the governments of provincial and federal governments did a fantastic job of coming to the table to support these entry level jobs, whether they were servers or cooks or busboys or anything. So to be able to give them two thousand dollars a month so that they could survive calms their nerves down quite a bit. And I must say, had it not been that, had it taken them a little longer, we would have had more emotional issues than not only financial issues. I think as an immigrant, I can say that you don’t come into this country to get alms from your government, you come here to work hard. You come here to give back to the community, give back to the country that has been so supportive of you and allow you to be who you are. So when having to collect either unemployment insurance or CERB from my employees was emotionally like – but this is not what I want. I’m fine. I’m fine. Some of them initially were didn’t want because that stigma of saying somebody is going to give you two thousand dollars a month without having to work was very tough on some of the staff members of mine. And then they finally got used to it. And I was like, you know, you need income, you do pay your taxes. And eventually, this is a government helping you perform or giving you something to do. I do think now that CERB has been extended for a little bit, I think you will just kind of blend itself in as our sales go up, as the summer comes in, as we need more and more staff. I think this intermingling and this will fade away slowly. Is there going to be any abuse? I don’t know. I don’t want to say. But I’m sure there are people out there who were, you know, working a lot of hours and still collecting CERB. And I would say politely to them, be careful. You’re only hurting your own brothers and sisters, your own fellow people in the industry. So be honest. Be trustworthy, talk to the government, talk to somebody that you need. And then just, you know, you don’t need, if you have enough work and you don’t need the help of the government, let that government, because eventually, we are going to have to pay back for this. Whether you like it or not, we and our kids are going to have to pay for this whether it’s by property taxes whether it’s by increasing of income tax or anything else. It’s going to get paid by somebody and that somebody is us eventually. So why go in further debt when you can mitigate that debt now? But I have to say, every circumstance is different. Every restaurant is different. Every industry is different. There is no one way to completely do the, you know, the rule of like, OK, this is the way it is because a pub is different than a restaurant. A restaurant is different than a take out. Take out is different than a diner. And so every solution has to be met individually and spoken to by the staff but the owners should be involved in making sure that the employees are well taken care of, emotionally and financially, and they are part of the solution to them because it’s our job to be the leaders, to showcase to them that this work, because they want to know from us the way we want to know from our leaders. They want to know from us.


Mary Rowe [00:30:59] Wendy, what would how would you augment there what Vik just said?


Wendy Nicolay [00:31:04] Well, I agree. I think the CERB program was such a relief. I remember the day I laid off one hundred and five people. I was in tears sitting at the computer, filling out ROEs all day. So it was great relief knowing that they were getting immediate, like the Federal government here I think did a really great job in putting that program out there. And the money was in their bank accounts really fast. As we got two months in when I needed to start rehiring people there was definitely some that were like, this is kind of not bad. You know, they were part time and kind of getting that money and going, hey, it’s summer. So it was it was actually kind of hard getting some staff back. And then I had staff that were just wanting to work and wanting to work full time. So they we brought them back as soon as we could. And it’s it’s been great. I think what’s been the lifeline for our restaurants has been the Canada emergency wage subsidy. Without that, it would have been impossible to bring these people back with our sales being – doing take out 20 percent, maybe 30. Now we’re maybe at 50 percent of last year’s sales. So the wage subsidy has been a godsend. And it’s great having staff back. They’ve been so supportive. We’ve been in constant communication. And it’s, you know, it’s great having them back. Can’t see their smiley faces through their masks sometimes. But it’s going well. And I’m I’m happy to have them all back.


Mary Rowe [00:32:29] Just just for the benefit of our American viewers, there are two wage supports two two income supports that the Canadian government did. One is the emergency benefit, which is a two thousand dollar transfer into your bank account. And the other is to the employer to cover a percentage of your wage. So if you stay on your payroll, then the government helps the employer. And that’s the transition from going from being the recipient directly of those dollars from the government to then going back to working for your employer. That’s the transition.  Matt, do you have anything to add on this? And I’m going to I’m going to ask you some other stuff in a minute. Go ahead, Matt.


Matt Webber [00:32:59] Really briefly, I’m very much on the same page as Wendy. I have a small restaurant, obviously, with only 47 seats. So it’s a little family of employees of about twenty five. And I had to let all of them go. Other than my senior management team. And it was the hardest thing. I called each one individually and spoke to them each about it. And they were all very appreciative of being able to get towards the CERB. And to Wendy’s point, the wage subsidy has been everything for my business. Without that, I really don’t even know if I would have had the chance to get to where we are today to be able to start clawing back and fighting back. And it’s at the forefront of a lot of my thought. When I start forecasting the future, like I said, I’m very blessed. I have this outdoor space and these patios. But as all the restauranteurs in here know, we operate with the craziest of margins. And one of the toughest industries. And when you go back and you think about the fall or the winter where we lose outside and then have to look into a restaurant that is around half capacity, probably if you’re lucky, when you’re spacing things two meters apart, it’s probably going to fall a little under that capacity.


Mary Rowe [00:34:14] So let’s talk about that for a sec, because, you know, a lot of people, in the chat are commenting on this is what would have happened if a pandemic had happened at a different time of year. Interesting to know how Australia has been dealing with it because they had it in their winter, rather than their summer. But here we are. We can go and eat in patios, some parts of the country maybe, maybe in Vancouver, you guys are anticipating you’ll be eating in patios twelve months the year. And there’s lots of parts of Canada where that won’t be possible. So. The extent to which there are urban – are there urban planning and urban design changes that can be made that will allow you to become a four season restaurant in a pandemic circumstance? Is anybody thinking about that? And Alicia, are you thinking about – I don’t know how your catchment area – is it only California, Alicia, or are you national?


Alicia Scholer [00:34:59] Well, we’re based in California. But we do work nationally and our our focus is actually international with recovery and reimagining team based in the U.S. and Canada.


Mary Rowe [00:35:11] OK, so then you’ve got you then you’ve heard of Chicago, you’ve heard of Toronto, you’ve heard of Winnipeg. We have snow. So what what’s what are your thoughts about how this this sort of is sociable city advancement that you want to promote? How is it going to work when the weather changes? Thoughts on that?


Alicia Scholer [00:35:29] That’s a great question. I think that’s that’s the one million dollar question. I think it just really it is sticking with some of these and reduced capacity measures. I think that thankfully, because nightlife, bars and restaurants are such creative entrepreneurs, you know, we’re going to we’re going to see some creative ideas coming out. I think some of our other panelists mentioned plexiglass separations, having some of those, you know, separate entrances and exits. Winter is definitely a tricky question, though. I’m not sure I have the best answer on that one.


Mary Rowe [00:36:06] I mean, honestly, Canada should be solving this for crying out loud. Patrick, you’re from New Brunswick. Come on. We should be solving this so that, you know, on in Toronto, they’ve taken portions of the of the parking lane and they’re making these patios. And I don’t – how difficult it would it be, actually just put a couple of heaters out there. And so in December


Patrick Watt [00:36:24] Well  there’s couple of things. I mean, Amsterdam started using little greenhouses.


Mary Rowe [00:36:29] Right, I saw that.


Patrick Watt [00:36:29] On the street. Right. And we even saw all those little glass kind of huts that were down in downtown Toronto before COVID. I forget which restaurant was doing them but they were down in the King Street West area. So, I mean, but that’s a very isolated that’s a big investment, too. I mean, throwing up a deck with some wood and a frame underneath it and some lights is one thing. But obviously, if you’re buying heaters at two, three thousand dollars a crack, you’ve got to somehow come up with a way to contain that heat in the space and then the cost of operating the heater. You can start seeing. And so realistically, you were lucky it happened now. And if operators aren’t looking at their interior to maximize their seating and if the BIAs aren’t lobbying for a separation and systems to show that their people are doing it, you’re going to have reduced or unless you want to go to e-commerce and do take out. And then plan for that. But if you want to have it in house, you’ve got to start planning now. If you’re just trying to get, you know, a chair on the street. That’s OK. I’m not criticizing that. But come September, October. I mean, here in New Brunswick, mid August maybe. But, you know, it’s really it’s really this is where Alicia is talking about creativity and it’s got to be inside. And, you know, I’ve got some clients who I’m not saying I did it, they did it. They just really you know, I have a client who has two operations and they’re both back to last year’s sales. So and so they’re with reduced capacity. But with a smart strategy and with their staff ready for a shutdown, their staff educating their patrons on how to come in, how to come out and demonstrating that everyone coming through that door feels safe. And I go back to that, that if you can’t demonstrate that your customers are safe coming in and can’t give them that, then you’re not doing your job. And you probably it’s just like serving food on dirty plates. If you’re not doing your job to keep your customers safe, then. And incorporating this into customer service. You’re not going to get customers back.


Mary Rowe [00:38:25] Question’s just coming in from the chat, which is a good one. How do you make these accommodations accessible to people with physical disabilities?


Patrick Watt [00:38:31] Well, that’s a whole other. But if you if you think about most restaurants, universal design is there already or it should be.


Mary Rowe [00:38:39] Yeah, but it might not be on their patio, Patrick. Alicia’s nodding. Is this something you’ve thought about already, Alicia?


Alicia Scholer [00:38:44] Definitely. This is something that has been a big concern for us, especially, well, for, you know, just making sure that they’re in compliance with what we have the Americans with Disabilities with Disabilities Act, as well as people with strollers, with walkers and anyone – one person who we recently spoke to with a visual impairment said that, you know, that folks tend to memorize where exactly, the layout of the streets. And they did that for safety. And so with street closures and extensions of patios, it can be very jarring. So that’s one of the things that we’re very concerned about and are trying to work with business improvement districts to create more of that plan when you take away some of those lanes of traffic and in your extending out into the street. How are you then coordinating parking? How are you coordinating Uber drop offs and ride share pickup hubs and ability to pick up your takeout and that sort of thing, as well as making making these areas accessible? And again, it depends, too, if it’s more of an extension into the street for one particular business, as it sounds like from Matt and Wendy or if you’re closing down the street entirely. So accessability challenges are going to differ depending on the model that the city is using.


Mary Rowe [00:40:01] Thursday, we’re having a session expressed expressly on this about the role of design and how can we fix things. I want to go back to money for a second, if I can. I’m interested. Not only were there wage implications, but there’s also the big old question of rent. Restaurants predominantly are tenants, correct? And I’m curious in terms from all of your perspectives, and I’m I’m ready for just a radical idea. I mean, we look at Main Streets, for instance. I increasingly wonder if we say that Main Streets have all these benefits, not just commercial benefits, but social capital benefits and public safety benefits. Should we be moving to a place where the property tax on a main street is actually lower? That’s one question I have and/or should we be creating programs where small business, where restauranteurs have an incentive to buy their building? Because my gut instinct is that a lot of the restaurants that have survived are because they happen to own their building. Have you have you guys run the numbers on this? I don’t know. Do you own your your your buildings, Wendy. Or do you. Are you a tenant?


Wendy Nicolay [00:41:07] Rent. All of them.


Mary Rowe [00:41:09] You do. And Vik? Are you a tenant or do you own?


Vikram Vij [00:41:11] I own. I my own my building on Cambie Street, Vij’s restaurant owns Cambie Street. And the My Shanti restaurant is obviously a lease. But let me get back to this point. You know, we talked about CERB, we talked about wage subsidy. And I was just going to jump in and say also rent relief that was given to us from the landlords, only having to pay 25 percent. And I think the solution of that with the landlords is forget the leases that were already put in place, what you were already charging us for it. It should be that the rule of thumb in our industry is 10 percent of your sales should be your rent. And that is an average rule of thumb. So if you if you make you sell one hundred thousand dollars, you’re rent should be ten thousand dollars.


Mary Rowe [00:42:03] Is it? Is it likely?


Vikram Vij [00:42:04] Sorry?


Mary Rowe [00:42:07] Is it – I mean, in big cities, can. Is that possible that your rent’s only 10 percent?


Vikram Vij [00:42:12] It is not. And that’s why so many restaurants turn so quickly and they go down so quickly because they just can’t pay the rents. Leases should be focused on 10 percent of your sales should be what rent should be. So as an owner, if you do a hundred thousand dollars in sales, you should the rent of 10,000 should go there. And that’s the model we are going to have to work with down the road. It cannot be because the landlords, what they do is, if one restaurant is paying them ten dollars a square foot and then the next one comes, they say, well, it’s eleven dollars now or it’s twelve now so they negotiate per square foot space rather than what that sale of the restaurants should be.


Mary Rowe [00:42:57] And I think yeah. And I think this is the point is that we have to say this is actually about more than just you, the owner. This is actually about the quality of life of that neighborhood. And so is there a public interest in changing that formula? Matt or Wendy, any thoughts on that? Have you ever given… I don’t know what percentage of your gross sales is going to rent. Have you ever thought about – is there another way to to work these numbers? Matt, have you ever thought about it?


Matt Webber [00:43:21] Well, I again, I’m in a very different situation. Hamilton, like I said


Mary Rowe [00:43:26] Yeah, the rents are cheaper.


Matt Webber [00:43:27] Rents are much cheaper. If I went to a 10 percent rent, I’d be paying next to double what I’m paying right now.


Mary Rowe [00:43:34] So you’re paying five percent?


Matt Webber [00:43:36] Yeah, I’m I.


Mary Rowe [00:43:37] The moral of the story is go and run a restaurant in a cheaper market.


Matt Webber [00:43:41] Well, it comes with a whole bunch of other issues as well. As someone who grew up, not grew up, but spent a lot of time in Toronto, honing my skills and working there, I know that that is exactly what Vikram is saying. That is exactly happening in Toronto and all of our major cities. So I probably am the last person that should speak out about this, because I come from a very unique situation where my downtown was in a very, very, very, very bad place no more than 10 years ago. We are just on the up skirt of fixing it and getting better. And I’m sure we will run into this problem in the next 10 years but currently, right now, I’m in a very good situation, so I don’t think I give an accurate opinion on the whole nation in terms of what they’re going through. But in my specific scenario, I do pay per square foot. So the problem does exist. We just haven’t got to the levels where my price per square foot has got to Vancouver or Toronto prices.


Mary Rowe [00:44:42] Vik and then Wendy.


Vikram Vij [00:44:44] Matt, I just need to get into this for a second. I don’t mean that every restaurant, every place should have the 10 percent. I think if you live in a smaller little town if you live in Nelson, B.C. or in Chilliwack, British Columbia or in Agassiz, that should be an aggregate of where it is. My point is the landlords have to work with the restaurant owners and small businesses together, and the restaurant owners have to be transparent to the landlords and say, this is what I have made. And the landlords have to come back and say, OK, I’ll work with you. My point is we need to bridge this gap. There is such a huge disparity between these, you know, companies that have owned land and property. And they are just numbers for us. We are just numbers for them sometimes. And I’m saying is we need to change that focus and become more of a community saying, OK, this is what you have, then I’ll take this much from you.


Mary Rowe [00:45:41] And I think the other dilemma that we are aware of because of the role that CUI plays, we’ve been working with Save Hospitality Canada and Save Small Business Canada and we are aware that that rent program that you’re citing, Vik, that that’s benefited you many, many, many landlords, that tens of thousands of landlords did not apply for it. And so other restaurants have not been in the same circumstance. Their landlord has not given them a break. Wendy has rent been a factor for you in your operations?


Wendy Nicolay [00:46:06] Yes, two of our landlords are small sort of mom and pop owners of buildings. I know they have mortgages to pay, too. So I fully understood the situation they were in, but they stepped up. They contacted me before I had to even ask. I just love them for that. Our base rents are reasonable. I think what really hurts us is we pay the triple net. We pay the property tax on our rent as well. So we pay everything on behalf of the landlord’s expense. So that’s what really kills us is the addition of insurance and property tax. Two of our landlords stepped up. One of them was a flat no from the beginning. It’s a big landlord, a big developer in the city of Vancouver, where they could easily eat that 25 percent without fail. And we’ve been we’ve been in that particular space for nine years. Nigel and I, we were unrelenting, sending them letters like practically begging to help us out. And then I finally wrote one letter just as our one of our windows got smashed. And I thought, I’ve had it. I’ve had it. I sent them one more letter and they finally came around and said they were going to apply. I could see the writing was on the wall. Our neighbors walked out of their lease under the same umbrella with one year left on their lease. There’s a couple stores that were shuttered. Our street looks like a ghost town. It’s on the entrance of Chinatown and it was becoming it’s becoming dangerous. We had a break-In and I just told them, like, is this your business plan, to see six businesses sit empty? Because you’re not going to be getting any restaurants in here anytime soon. So please help. And they did. I’ve yet to see the help, but they said they would. So fingers crossed, they come through. We really, really need it. And the thing that bothered me about that program is that we were at the mercy of our landlords. There was no sort of shove from the province to say, you got to do this. So a lot of them were like, good, I don’t have to then. I won’t.


Mary Rowe [00:48:01] You know, I mean, again, this is this is one of these things that I and I am going to ask you each about this now is, you know, as we come out of this, what what do we or as we continue to live with it, maybe, as you suggest, some of you suggested, maybe we’re going to just fall into something else and who knows what’s next. But as we move to whatever this new normal is. Are there key things that we have to make stick or that we have to develop further? So one that I wonder about is do we need to find some kind of capital pool that’s going to at at a preferred borrowing rate that would allow small businesses to buy their to to buy their buildings? Or do we want to create land trusts, too, so that some some other entity owns those Main Street businesses. And so because otherwise we’ll end up even before COVID Main Streets were struggling. Gentrification and chains became the only thing that could be afforded to move in. So is this our moment to take that Main Street back and say, well, just a sec? Actually, we don’t want to have only chains on Main Streets, you know? Alicia, are you thinking about that?


Alicia Scholer [00:49:02] Yes.


Mary Rowe [00:49:03] I’m going to ask each of you to just give me a couple of things that you think should be the priorities going forward. Go ahead Alicia, you first.


Alicia Scholer [00:49:08] Oh, gosh. I’ve got a couple.


Mary Rowe [00:49:10] That’s fine. You can.


Alicia Scholer [00:49:12] Following up on that land trust idea. That’s actually something that is being considered by some of the cities that we’ve done that we’ve been talking to, such as Austin looking having the city consider purchasing some of the live music venues to protect them. Something that Toronto did is they put in place 50 percent property tax relief for live music venues. So that’s been a huge savings. Other things are things like capping third party delivery fees. I’m not sure if you all are experiencing that has been majorly impacting the ability for restaurants and bars to be able to maintain a profit so New York City actually was able to pass a 10 percent cap instead of the rates that some of these cities are passing of a 15 percent, 30 percent that’s being charged by GrubHub and Uber eats. And finally, one of the big things is that here I am. I’d love to know, too, if if you all pay into this, too. But we have something called business interruption insurance. And this is something that businesses have been paying for years, if not decades. And it has been unconscionable that when businesses finally need it and they call their insurance companies and say we’ve, we’re experiencing this pandemic, they’re using this obscure language in their insurance policies to deny them that coverage. So making sure moving forward that we have some really clear language to protect businesses in the event of another pandemic or having some sort of subsidy, as you mentioned, Mary, to be able to help businesses through this difficult time.


Mary Rowe [00:50:42] You just mentioned a pet peeve of mine, which is delivery. Are you aware of any local delivery initiatives so that instead of those big conglomerates that have tried to come in and some of them have left Canada, are you aware of local communities that have actually created their own delivery capacity where 10 restaurants joined together or whatever?


Alicia Scholer [00:50:59] I did hear about something like that. It was a partnership in Orlando. But actually, it was it was actually through Uber eats so that is a larger company, but I believe that they did partner on a local level to try and provide more affordable rates. I’m not sure that some of the other kind of local apps, though.


Mary Rowe [00:51:17] OK. Vik, what do you think in terms of a couple of things that we need to be really, really focused on now going forward?


Vikram Vij [00:51:23] Well, I think awareness of the fact that what is coming down the pipeline. So what what is the model going to look like? So as leaders, you need to you need to take the initiative and say, oh, I want to put a patio right here. Or I want to do a delivery service from here or I just want to do dine in only it’s okay for me to do less or take out whatever, whatever your model is. The second most important part is I think communication at the level of what is happening so rather than just saying this government hasn’t done this or that organization hasn’t done this, let’s work together, let’s sit at the table and have proper ways of figuring things out. And conversations are very, very important and listening to the other. So there is a mom pop shop that is having a hard time. Listen to them and listen to what they’re coming from and where they’re coming from, or if it’s a big organization that has, you know, 50 restaurants and that’s it. They have challenges that’s slightly different than everybody else. And so we can’t blanket. I want to set this, you know, it’s like you cannot say the restaurant industry. You have to say a small business industry, which is an individual restaurant on a different level. And what is going to happen down the road? Even I don’t know. Nobody knows.


Mary Rowe [00:52:48] What about, Vik, how price sensitive can can we be here? And we’re some people in the chat are commenting that some folks are some restaurants are on – when you get your bill, they’re putting a premium sort of to cover costs for PPE and stuff. And and if you can only seat half the number of patrons, then maybe your costs should go up. And then and then local patrons have to be prepared to pay a premium if they want to eat in a restaurant. Does that concern you that that might be part of a solution if you’re just going to raise your prices?


Vikram Vij [00:53:16] You know, good food is not cheap and it should never be cheap, but I don’t think we need to start, this is my personal opinion, we’ve discussed it with our own management team as well. You know, Mike, and Meeru, and Osu and we discussed this with them and said, you know, should we put a price on this? No. I mean, I don’t think you need to say… then you’re going to have to start saying, electricity so much and insurance so much and this so much. You need to stop that. I think the price should reflect on the menu, inclusive of all that. That’s cost of doing business and cost of doing whatever it happens. Having said that. Nobody’s saying that your food should be cheap? Why should your food be cheap? Good food, good quality there are farmers who have brought it in, that people who have delivered this food to you fresh, there are people who made it and they want good wages so they want to survive in this world. Why should that be cheap? So nobody’s saying that food should be cheap.


Mary Rowe [00:54:15] No.


Vikram Vij [00:54:15] It should be what should the value should.


Mary Rowe [00:54:19] Right. Right. Patrick, from you, a couple of a couple of thoughts on what you think.


Patrick Watt [00:54:24] I’ll just follow up on. What we’re seeing on delivery is there’s a propensity to go to a lower price point for delivery, and in general. That’s one of the statistics we’re seeing. But what the other thing we’re seeing in retail in general, and I think it applies to food service, is less frequency, higher purchase per visit. So that this goes back to making sure your client wants to stay because they’re willing to spend more when they’re there, because we’re going out less as much. So that’s your strategy. I’m not saying increasing your pricing, but is it is somehow that you can package so you can increase your your average check when the customer is in your restaurant. So that that.


Mary Rowe [00:55:07] And Patrick isn’t that in essence, what some of the higher end restaurants that I’ve seen, they now have all these groceries they have prepared food, they. So I am dropping more money there because I’m eating…


Patrick Watt [00:55:17] Right. Incremental sales, that type of thing is that’s where that’s where. That’s where that is going to go back to getting the people in and making them comfortable and selling them more is your strategy because they’re going out less as much but they still may have the same disposable income. So it’s just how to instead of getting it as frequency, you get more in one one stop. Back to the Main Street strategies. We have been looking at some of the larger real estate operators and they are willing to negotiate with the tenants that have shown success. But a lot of them are kind of saying, you know what, I had people on the bubble and they were the bubble was supposed to break for business success anyway, or we’ve been carrying them for three or four years. So, I’m not engaging. So that’s it. So when you go back to Main Street and planning the neighborhood, it’s important that the BIA or Main Street or whoever it is, is the or the vendor, the tenants themselves start talking to the landlords about curation of the whole neighborhood. What’s the mix that’s going to work? And this is where you can talk to your city. We did a study for the city of Toronto and recommended capping the square footage size of food service operations in certain types of neighborhoods. So you’ve got more of a turnover. In a neighborhood that’s gentrified and single family homes have become multi unit homes, people don’t have the social space in their house, so the restaurants become the social space. So what we were you know, this is the night life thing. So what we were saying is, but if you just have one big six thousand square foot chain, come in, where do they get their variety? So they’re gonna start going to other neighborhoods. So the newly gentrified neighborhood becomes the one that’s most popular because the chains come in after, buy up three storefronts into a six thousand. So to keep it around, you know, fifteen hundred to three thousand, kind of the sweet spot of square footage. So there are a couple of ideas that, you know, from the, the larger numbers we’re seeing that we can try to hit the street with.


Mary Rowe [00:57:12] OK. I’ve only got a few more minutes and then I’m going to plug Thursday, which is going to deal with the physical pieces, Matt and then Wendy. Last two words for you guys in terms of what you think we should be focusing on going forward. Matt.


Matt Webber [00:57:23] Really quickly, I love the idea that was brought up about assistance with the delivery fees. That’s something that really hit us hard when we had to switch to delivery. We didn’t know about the game. And I stayed away from these delivery apps because of these charges and then I was forced into it. So some sort of regulation that makes it doable would be lovely. And then I really saw my city come out in full force through this and really push a lot of red tape and bureaucracy to help us get some licensing on the street, get let us the liquor license on our street and stuff that normally would take a lot longer came a lot quicker.


Mary Rowe [00:58:00] And you want that to stick?


Matt Webber [00:58:02] Yeah, I would like to work with my city and get things done in days to weeks as opposed to months. That would be huge on our end.


Mary Rowe [00:58:09] COVID time. Everything has to go to COVID time. Last word to you, Wendy. What do you think we should be focusing on going forward?


Wendy Nicolay [00:58:16] The real estate talk is interesting. It’s something I’ve never even dreamed of because real estate’s so expensive in Vancouver, but that’s down the road. One thing that’s recently happened in the province of B.C. has been the wholesale liquor pricing that we’ve finally been allowed to purchase our liquor supply for wholesale costs. So that’s huge. It’s temporary. They keep reminding us, but that’s going to be a huge savings. And because everyone right now is also looking for a deal. So I feel like we’re all pricing ourselves to the bottom like so and so, selling a pint for six bucks. We better do it for five. It’s really challenging, people want happy hour. So we need assistance there and the wholesale pricing will give us a boost. And I. It’s something we’ve been fighting for years here and they finally, finally just gave it to us now. So that will help. Hopefully that sticks.


Mary Rowe [00:59:07] Yes. And, you know, you’re one of the most nimble industries. And and, boy, if if there was a time when you need to be nimble, it was during COVID. And I think that there we’re gonna go look back on this and recognize the. There were all sorts of smart things that, as you just suggested, the last two, you were pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing to get regulation change. Then finally they got changed under these circumstances. So I hope all our city talkers will come back and join us on Thursday when we are going to have as part of the bring back Main Street week. We’re going to talk about the role of design and engagement, and that will include people in the chat like Chris Fraser and Susan Chin, who are some super city talkers, if I may say. Always nice to see you guys online, about Scandinavia and streets. And are there different ways to use streets? And what about heaters and. Oh, my gosh, all these things. So that’s Thursday. And then on Friday, we’re with the mayor of Windsor. And Windsor is going through an extraordinarily challenging time. If you read the newspapers in Canada, you will know that it is the hot spot for incidents because of all the agricultural workers in the southwest. Plus, it’s a border city. So we’ll be with the mayor of Windsor on Friday. I hope you’ll join us. Listen, gang, I really could talk with you all day. In fact, I need to hang up and go get something to eat. And I’m going to make sure tonight, Alicia, that I go out on the street just to celebrate the potential of sociable cities in the evenings, in the dark. And what an important part of the fabric of urban life you all are. And we appreciate you coming on citytalk, sharing with us your experience. We wish you well as you continue to adapt and change and build your term, Alicia, the sociable city. So thanks very much for joining us. A real pleasure to hear from you.


Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

Note to reader: Chat comments have been edited for ease of readability. The text has not been edited for spelling or grammar. For questions or concerns, please contact with “Chat Comments” in the subject line.

12:01:35 From Canadian Urban Institute: Welcome! Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:01:50 From Abby S: WOW! and wonderful!
12:02:09 From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at
12:03:10 From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb
12:05:06 From Abby S: And what will these restaurants on the sidewalk do when the weather changes? Just askin’
12:05:51 From Abby S: Toronto/Guelph
12:05:52 From Jonathan Giggs: Port Credit in Mississauga
12:05:53 From Patricia Kimie to All panelists: Patricia from Santa Cruz, CA
12:05:54 From Michelle Warren: Hi everyone, I’m here from Toronto
12:05:56 From Caroline Poole: Today’s guests across Canada are:

Wendy Nicolay:

Alicia Scholer:

Patrick Watt:

Matt Webber:

Vikram Vij:
12:05:57 From Liliana Cortes to All panelists: Central California
12:06:02 From Robin McPherson: St.Catharines, Niagara.
12:06:07 From Gillian Mason to All panelists: Beautiful Scarborough Ontario
12:06:07 From Charles Procter to All panelists: Strathmore/Calgary Alberta (Hi everyone!)
12:06:11 From Patrick Fazari to All panelists: Watching from Hamilton, ON
12:06:12 From Carol-Ann Chafe to All panelists: hi Carol-Ann from Access 2 Accessibility in Mississauga, Ontario
12:06:23 From Gillian Mason: Beautiful Scarborough Ontario
12:06:26 From Susan Chin: Greetings from NYC!
12:06:47 From Maureen Luoma: Hello from Downtown Sudbury, Ontario!
12:06:57 From Blaire Prima: Hello from Saskatoon, SK!
12:07:06 From Caroline Poole: Matt’s Berkeley North Restaurant in Hamilton, ON:
12:07:06 From Donna Dolan: Hi from Old Mill area of Toronto
12:09:46 From Ralph Cipolla: hello from sunshine city Orillia Ontario
12:10:56 From Caroline Poole: Wendy owns a few restaurants across Vancouver including:
The Cascade Room:

El Camino’s:

The Union:

Main St. Brewing:

12:13:21 From Ralph Cipolla: Ralph Cipolla …….hello from sunshine city Orillia Ontario
12:14:42 From Caroline Poole: Vikram’s restaurants in Vancouver include:

Vij’s Restaurant:

My Shanti:

Vij’s Sutra:
12:16:02 From Janet Horner to All panelists: Hi from Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance
12:17:36 From Abby S: Not to mention, the disposable PPE that is now filling up our landfills
12:17:46 From Caroline Poole: Alicia is the VP of Responsible Hospitality Institute in California:
12:23:53 From Mark Guslits: just wondering, as a past part owner of a small restaurant in Prince Edward County, how any one can survive for long without CERB or other incentive packages in place. My experience was that every month was one bad month away from closing. Even though we were a very busy place most days. It seems to me that when the dust clears (if it ever does) the landscape of food service outlets will be a very different (and greatly reduced) one. Or am I just too pessimistic for my own good.
12:24:32 From Caroline Poole: Patrick Watt works with JC Williams Group:
12:35:30 From Abby S: Even their winter is temperate
12:35:44 From Abby S: Australia I mean
12:35:46 From sue uteck to All panelists: Are your business improvement districts supporting or organizing campaigns to support local? Here in Halifax we are entering our 3rd week of Halifax Re-open Campaign which encourages the public to come out and eat/shop local. We have had very good uptake.
12:36:17 From Canadian Urban Institute: Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:37:25 From Abby S: doen’t winnipeg do lots of creative things in winter around food?
12:38:43 From Carol-Ann Chafe: Are business owners taking accessibility into account both inside and on outside patios? plus do the patios obstruct people in wheelchairs/blind etc. from walking on the sidewalks?
12:39:08 From Abby S: Are diners going to be willing to pay higher prices? And will it become an elitist only pastime?
12:39:38 From Susan Chin: Is there something to learn from Scandinavia? They have outdoor dining and shared streets.
12:41:28 From Andrea Lam: @Abby, some restaurants in the Metro Vancouver area have added a COVID fee. Diners were not notified about this, but saw it on the bill. Maybe it’s a temporary surcharge to offset the costs of ppe and additional cleaning and there are definitely some who support this and others who are outraged.
12:43:31 From Abby S: @Andrea I do not begrudge restaurants raising prices at all…but I just wonder how it will affect overall patronage.
12:44:14 From Abby S: @Vij our experience was that landlords were (in the past) completely unwilling to fix percentage rent (unless it exceeded the minimum) and will the banks finance when this all flows through?
12:45:00 From sue uteck: In Nova Scotia all businesses were eligible for a 5,000 dollar grant for protective equipment. We are now pushing for a travel incentive tax program. Get up to 1-2,000 tax credit for exploring the Atlantic Bubble.
12:45:59 From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at
12:46:29 From Abby S: In order for landlords to work with restaurants, the bank have to work with the landlords…and REITS are different than independent landlords.
12:48:32 From Abby S: Will rents come down as the market contracts?
12:49:12 From Abby S: That was such a common experience in Toronto…so many large (and small) just decided to ignore the program.
12:51:41 From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb
12:53:02 From Chris Fraser to All panelists: Getting back to Susan Chin’s comment about outdoor dining, Denmark does a great job of promoting outdoor dining – with heaters – which could apply in Toronto – not for the entire year – but it might allow an extra month or two of capacity outdoors.
12:53:54 From Canadian Urban Institute: Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:54:39 From Renita Dsouza to All panelists: is one such local delivery service
12:56:11 From Canadian Urban Institute: What did you think of today’s conversation? Help us improve our programming with a short post-webinar survey –
13:01:06 From Abby S: Thank you all! Good luck!
13:01:17 From Gillian Mason: Well done! Scarborough Business Association tomorrow: July 8 Cyber Breakfast – Secrets to Economic Recovery: Scarborough Restaurant Innovation Panel
13:01:29 From Ralph Cipolla: thank you great talk
13:01:31 From Abby S: Thank you Mary!
13:01:34 From Susan Chin: thank you all for the candid comments! yes, go out & support local!