‘Safe for our customers and safe for our staff’: Winnipeg businesses choosing to close to get ahead of COVID-19

As COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise across Manitoba, some businesses are weighing their options over the holidays.

At Grace and Company on Academy Road, Thursday marked the last day customers were able to shop in-person until the new year.

Owner Dorothy Vannon said she wanted to take steps to prevent cases from popping up in her store.

“We felt that it was probably best to just cut the strings and close early just to be safe,” Vannon told CTV News. “Safe for our customers and safe for our staff.”

The latest round of Manitoba’s public health restrictions didn’t impact Vannon’s store, but, as COVID cases continued to rise, she decided to close her shop until January 11th and rely on online sales to get by.

“Schools are opening up on [January] 10th and we felt that there must be some kind of underlying reason why. Maybe Dr. Roussin will be bringing up more restrictions?” Vannon speculated.

“So we thought rather than yo-yoing back and forth, we’d just open on the 11th.”

Grace and Company aren’t the only Winnipeg business closing voluntarily to get ahead of the spread.

Kathleen Cook, Senior Policy Analyst for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said she’s hearing about multiple businesses choosing to close temporarily due to safety concerns, but it’s not an easy choice to make for owners.

“It’s a really tough time for businesses, particularly when so many of them depend on holiday season revenues to get them through the leaner months in January and February.”

Cook said other factors putting strains on business owners are labour shortages, rising inflation and supply chain disruptions.

On Tuesday, the province announced a new financial relief program for businesses impacted by the latest health restrictions but retailers like Grace and Company don’t qualify because their sector wasn’t mandated to reduce its capacity.

In a statement to CTV News, a spokesperson for the province said: “The Sector Support Program is geared to those sectors impacted by the public health order that took effect on Tuesday, not others where a business allowed to operate at full capacity makes an independent decision to close during the December 21 to January 11 period of the latest order. The Province of Manitoba will continue consulting with business organizations as the pandemic unfolds and public health orders evolve.”

Vannon hopes the province will consider retail businesses like hers who are going above and beyond to help keep people safe.

“It is tough, but I think it’s better to be safe in the long run than to take a chance.”

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