Mark Shelling

New COVID Restrictions Mean New Tactics For Supporting Small Businesses

So, things are changing once again. With the latest update from Dr. Bonnie Henry, restrictions have tightened back up. 

In case you didn’t happen to see the new outlines, it goes like this:

No social gatherings of any size with anyone not in your household bubble, this includes at restaurants. By household, it’s meant the people you spend the most time with and are physically close to. For those that live alone, they can also see anyone who is in their daily life in a physically close way. The main message is to be vigilant, and if it seems risky, then don’t do it. 

These measures are set to be in place until Monday Nov. 23 at noon, but could very well extend further. While obviously nobody is looking forward to this, it's a necessary fact that we need to get things under control. However, while it may be simply an inconvenience for people wanting to see their friends again, it's coming dangerously close to another full lockdown for restaurants, bars, and small businesses. In June alone, Canada lost over 56,000 businesses across all industries. This isn't an issue of putting business over safety, but if we go into another across the board shutdown, more people's livelihoods will be on the line. And when a small business goes under, it's a blow to any city's character and personality.

If you're in the position to help, then we highly encourage you to. This means buying gift cards, supporting takeout, doing whatever you can to prop up small businesses' defence if things get serious again.As Christmas is around the corner, it's a means to give twice. Once to the recipient and another to show your support to a spot you love. Ordering takeout from a restaurant is great, but there's also a caveat to it. While third-party apps like Skip The Dishes and Doordash are handy, they can often leave a small business footing the bill of added fees. Whenever you can, consider ordering directly from the restaurants. Even if they don't deliver, doing a little leg work and getting take out will go a long way to nurturing their margins.

Another way to show support is just to champion your favourite spots. As small businesses have small budgets, any money that was previously going towards marketing now has to be put into merely staying afloat. A simple shout out on social media or referring a friend can go a long way to regaining business for owners. For business owners, cultivating these champions is as easy as recognizing when someone is going out of their way to support them. This could mean offering some small token of appreciation or realistically just saying thank you. Building pride of purchase will go a long way to long term loyalty. It’s a sentiment that many small businesses have begun spreading amongst each other as well. That’s the idea behind the hospitality project, Breaking Bread. When the pandemic first began, small restaurants and bars banded together to encourage the public to continue supporting local eateries. The campaign continues today, and has become a rallying point for restaurant owners throughout the city.

While a struggle, the pandemic has also given some light to Vancouver's sense of community. Despite the ease of online shopping, it's clear that more and more people realize the value of putting money back into where they live. For an example of a community rallying around a neighbourhood business, look to Dandelion Emporium in Mount Pleasant. When a devastating fire ripped through a heritage block on Main street last month, the owners lost just about everything. However, not even a day later, a Gofundme page was set up to get the owners back on their feet. A fundraiser that is now up to $30K. It's a gesture that speaks volumes about the heart of Vancouverites when they're faced with a thread of cultural fabric being absent. Hopefully we can get more of this momentum going preemptively before any more businesses suffer.