January 18th, 2021

Making the best of a difficult situation


By Lethbridge Herald on December 9, 2020.

Catwalk Salon owner Levi Cox styles a client's hair Wednesday as his downtown business works overtime to accommodate final customer appointments before the new restrictions come into effect this weekend. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dale Woodard
Lethbridge Herald
With COVID-19 numbers across Alberta showing no sign of slowing, many local businesses will be shutting down for the next month.
On Tuesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced stronger public health measures in light of rising COVID-19 cases.
“While the government announced restrictions late November to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, numbers have continued to spiral,” said Cyndi Vos, CEO Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce, in a release. “While the move towards tighter restrictions is not desirable, the only way we can move towards economic recovery is for the government to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.”
Though not shocked by the provincial lockdown, the announcement still left some local businesses scrambling to tie up loose ends before the deadline rolls around Saturday at midnight.
“The calls are coming in like crazy and we’re trying to accommodate the clients who were already pre-booked,” said Levi Cox, owner and stylist at Catwalk Salon & Spa. “We’ve extended our hours until Saturday evening to try and accommodate people. I had to extend hours and bring in more people and more receptionists just because we’re trying to get as many people as we can in before Saturday safely.”
That was also the case over at Katt Panic Makeup Art & Design as owner Katt Panic prepared for what will be a hectic next few days.
“We’re trying to fit four weeks of work into four days,” said Panic, adding Tuesday’s decision wasn’t unexpected.
“I didn’t see another answer. As much as I didn’t like what I heard, I respected it.
“Of course, I was sad and I mourned the month. It never really came back fully from the last lockdown, so to have another one is kind of a punch in the gut. But it is what it is and we’re all trying to adapt in every way we can. We just really depend on the support in the community. I’m pretty grateful. There could be worse things.”
At Honkers Pub & Eatery, owner and operator Vicky Vanden Hoek knew something had to give with the escalating COVID numbers.
“We knew there had to be changes. We’re like so many of the other businesses, it is what it is and we can only do the best we can and try to keep alive and do as much in that direction,” she said. “What we’re doing is going through every employee and seeing where they’re at. Do they want to keep working or do they want hours or how are they feeling?
“It’s also a very emotional thing for employees and you really have to watch out for their mental health as well because it’s easy for me as an owner to pull the plug and shut down. But a lot of people are depending on this and for most it’s a long time for people to go back into unemployment.”
For Cox, Tuesday’s announcement was made a bit tougher given his industry’s clean record in dealing with the pandemic.
“At first we thought it was just two weeks, so we were very shocked to see it was over a month,” he said. “The problem is just two weeks ago when the announcements were made Jason Kenney not only gave salons kudos, but said there were no cases spread through salons. We thought we were going to be safe through this because we were the only industry that got a special shout-out. So this came as a bigger shock, if that hadn’t been stated it would have been less of a shock.”
Cox noted the pandemic protocol his staff has followed.
“In our break room, everyone is in a mask unless they’re eating and drinking, and we’re scheduled so we’re not gathered at the same time in our staff room,” he said. “We were hoping we could be open in a limited capacity like retail stores since we’re all in masks. That’s what we hoped for, but we can’t change that decision now.”
Tuesday’s announcement also included expanded provincial supports for businesses impacted by restrictions.
“The wage compensation I’ve been getting has kept us afloat and I will take advantage of the new programs, but it still doesn’t replace that part of the community we service because not only do we do your hair, but we’re really important to people’s mental health,” said Cox. “For a lot of people this is their only social interaction and with all the restrictions this is the way we get to be social because we get to visit with our clients and make them feel good and all around, it’s good mental health. For that support to be taken away from our community and my stylists and team, my staff says to me all the time ‘Thank God for this job, I still get to do my hair or put on heels or a nice outfit because there’s none of that really happening right now.’”
Despite the enforced shutdown, Vanden Hoek remained optimistic.
“I think if we take the time and do what we need to do, when we reopen we will come out strong just like the other businesses, whether they’re hospitality or not,” she said, adding Honkers will test the possibility of a takeout service until Dec. 19.
“We’re going to test it week-by-week. So being Saturday is the last dine-in, we’ll open on Monday when we’ll normally be closed, but we’ll be open the 14th to the 19th to do takeout and curbside and see how our numbers go. If it’s just not there, then we’ll have to make that decision to not continue. We’ll keep as many departments employed by doing deep cleaning, organization and restructuring, which is also needed when you have a slow time.”
The victims of a break-in two weekends ago, Vanden Hoek spoke of the outpouring of community support.
“That has given us the restart of ‘You know what? They want us here and we want to be here,’” she said. “We’re all in it together. So when we’re struggling and down and out and something hits it’s the re-charge and the support the community gets. We might have to shut down at some point for a week or two, but when we all kick back up I believe the community will be there again and I hope all the businesses can hang in as much as they can.”
Like Vanden Hoek, Panic also plans to offer delivery services.
“I still have some products so I’m doing curbside pickup and free delivery and gift wrapping just to try and make the season brighter for people, but to also try to put some smiles on faces and keep the business alive,” she said. “But I know there will be support we can access. We’re just going to make the best of it.”
For more information on the Government of Alberta’s new public health measures, visit: https://www.alberta.ca/enhanced-public-health-measures.aspx.
Follow @DWoodardHerald on Twitter

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