Halifax restaurants continue to rely on takeout after restrictions extended

It’s takeout or nothing for restaurants in the Halifax area, during what is typically one of the busiest times of the year.

“It’s the only way for revenue, and it’s definitely challenging,” says restaurant owner Lil MacPherson.

The holidays are typically a time to gather, and restaurants are often a gathering point for Christmas parties, New Year’s Eve dinners and family get-togethers.

“It’s the time when all restaurants thrive as best as we can, and make money to get us through the next two or three months of winter storms,” says MacPherson of the holiday season. “It’s really that time that we bank our money, so it’s really critical.”

Last week, Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil extended restrictions requiring restaurants in the Halifax Regional Municipality and parts of Hants County to remain closed for in-person dining until at least Jan. 11.

Restaurants can still offer takeout and delivery, but some owners say the takeout option doesn’t work for every restaurant, as some simply aren’t set up for that type of service.

“We are not designed to do take-away, we are not a take-out restaurant,” says Halifax restaurant owner Hakan Uluer. “This is a 200-seat restaurant, and we are trying to create some revenue to help pay our rent.”

Uluer thinks he has a solution that would allow patrons to dine at the Bicycle Thief restaurant in downtown Halifax. 

Three outdoor dining huts have been installed outside the building. Uluer says they are completely enclosed, have their own ventilation and will be sanitized between sittings.

“We submitted our application and I believe in the next couple days, or a weeks time, they’re going to come in and inspect, and we’re looking forward to having a fun addition to the waterfront,” says Uluer.

In the meantime, the restaurant remains closed, as they do throughout the city, which is a blow to the business and the economy.

“95 cents of every dollar goes back out into the community,” says Luc Erjavec, Atlantic VP of Restaurants Canada. “Whether it be staff wages, or buying beer from the local brewer.”

The service industry is the fourth largest employer in Nova Scotia.

Erjavec says 65% of restaurants are currently operating at a loss, and that is leading to significant layoffs at a time of year when restaurants typically bring on extra staff, not let them go.