Nanaimo businesses are expressing relief that B.C. health officials have rescinded COVID-19 capacity limits. (News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo businesses are expressing relief that B.C. health officials have rescinded COVID-19 capacity limits. (News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo businesses embrace easing of COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. health officials eased some pandemic restrictions this week such as capacity limits

Even though B.C. health officials have eased COVID-19 health and safety restrictions, it could take time before it’s business as usual.

Rules limiting customer capacity and prohibiting some businesses from being open were rescinded this week, allowing bars and fitness centres to return to some sense of normalcy. Kim Smythe, Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said he is appreciative that restrictions are being lifted, but doesn’t expect economic recovery to happen overnight.

“It’ll take a good year until people recover to maybe taking that second or third mortgage off their house that they had to put on in order to keep the doors open, and everybody gets back to a normal earning level and a normal sales level,” said Smythe. “You’ll probably see sales recover by fall. It’s going to still take some time for people to be able to stack away a bit of profits so that they can pay off those debts that they incurred.”

Bill Paisley, owner of Orangetheory Fitness at Longwood Station, was primed to open his group fitness facility in November 2020, but was delayed by the pandemic and ended up opening in July 2021.

While businesses were forced to close, after a December health order spurred by the Omicron variant, hospitality industry owners can order food, walk in and “switch everything on,” with eased restrictions, but

He said the public health orders impacted the membership-based fitness industry differently than, for example, the food services industry.

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“At a restaurant, someone gets up, they leave, you’re getting the revenue flow right away, where fitness isn’t,” Paisley said. “You’re building your base and then you’re expanding from there. So it takes a long time to get a reward and every time the market shuts down, you lose a certain percentage and you’re back to square one.”

Over at White Sails Brewing, losing holiday-season revenue had negative impact, as that typically busy time of year tides the business over during the slower, post-Christmas months, said Brian McCarthy, general manager. But he said the company is prepared in case restrictions return.

“We have both distribution, where we have cans and kegs going out to retail partners all around Vancouver Island, and we have the taproom,” said McCarthy. “So when the taproom gets shut down, we just have to steer that boat over a course of months or so in order to create efficiencies in the other part of our business. We’ve been yo-yo-ing back and forth.”

Smythe said retailers have come up with strategies during the pandemic to cope with capacity restrictions and other health orders, and hopes their perseverance will lead to prosperity.

“I expected there to be a heck of a lot more business loss than we’ve seen,” said Smythe. “So it’s proven that the businesses are resilient and if they’ve made it this far, and if people are coming back out now, and if more people are getting back to work and earning a living, then there’s going to be more disposable income in the community, so we could see a boom.”

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READ ALSO: COVID-19 leads to more home-based businesses

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