Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

THE DOORS ARE OPEN – The 98 Hotel opened this morning after a three-month hiatus and saw significant morning traffic from eager regulars, according to manager Angel Sunderman, seen here in her office.

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

REFURBISHED AND RETURNING – The Casa Loma is undergoing renovations in preparation for opening next week, according to owner Craig Tuton, seen on the premises this morning.

Bars swing back open to eager patrons

When the 98 Hotel opened this morning after a three-month mandated closure, staff saw a line-up of customers anxious to return to the community and routine the bar provides.

By Gabrielle Plonka on June 24, 2020

When the 98 Hotel opened this morning after a three-month mandated closure, staff saw a line-up of customers anxious to return to the community and routine the bar provides.

“On Friday, within three hours (of the announcement), we had 40 phone calls, asking, ‘Are you open?’” Angel Sunderman, manager of the 98, told the Star this morning.

The 98 is one of many Yukon bars opening or preparing to open after the territorial government lifted the closure order last Friday.

Bar owners are challenged to reopen with new rules mandating extra cleaning and limiting capacity to 50 per cent. 

The capacity limit means the 98 can only serve 31 customers at a time, but Sunderman said the required cleaning procedures have necessitated two bartenders on shift.

“It’s going to be really hard to make money when you have double the staff; normally I only have one staff on,” Sunderman said.

Craig Tuton, the owner of the Casa Loma Motel in Porter Creek, told the Star this morning he plans to reopen the motel bar next week.

He said the limited capacity will present a challenge when the cost of staffing and utilities stays the same.

“Your overhead isn’t going to change, so profit margins are going to be down,” Tuton said.

Live music is still not allowed in Yukon bars, so Tuton won’t be able to open the section of the bar reserved for Friday and Saturday nights entertainment.

Tuton said that after three months of COVID-19 restrictions, the habits of his clientele may have changed permanently.

“There’s always a risk and a danger that the people who looked forward to Friday and Saturday nights, they’re not going to miss it,” Tuton said.

“Friends in the bar business are telling me that 50 per cent capacity, well, they’re not getting that. I expected people to rush on opening night, but that didn’t happen.”

Tuton will reopen seven days a week as soon as renovations at the bar are complete. 

He said there’s been a shortage of construction supplies and staff since the pandemic began.

“I’m trying to get tradesmen and materials, it’s unbelievable,” Tuton said.

“Everybody’s busy, trying to get construction materials is crazy; I guess everyone is doing what we’re doing.”

Tuton said it made sense to take advantage of the closure to renovate, but it’s been difficult to balance costs with the marginal profits that off- sales and motel room bookings have provided.

“It’s difficult when revenues coming in aren’t very good, and costs coming out are a lot,” Tuton said.

The 98 also renovated its bar while closed, and Sunderman said she also noted supply shortages.

“Lumber, especially; everyone is renovating now,” Sunderman said.

The reopening of the 98 represents the re-establishment of a community of 35 years.

“If you took Cheers and Trailer Park Boys and put them together, you’d have the 98 Hotel, because you know everybody, and there’s some real characters,” Sunderman said.

“Everybody is family.”

Sunderman said she’s already heard chimes of relief from regular clientele who were eager to see the doors reopen.

“The people that come here have nowhere else to go,” Sunderman said.

“It’s become one of the last bars that’s ‘the office.’”

Restaurants received the green light to open dining rooms on May 29, nearly a full month before bars were permitted.

Sunderman said it was frustrating to see other establishments in the Yukon open up so much earlier. She argues there is very little difference in risk between a pub atmosphere and a bar like the 98.

“If they had done a little bit of footwork, they would have realized it was just a technicality someone took advantage of,” Sunderman said.

On July 1, restaurants will be permitted to open at full capacity again as long as a distance of two metres can be maintained between customers.

The Yukon Party argues the two rules contradict each other – and make it impossible for restaurateurs to seat dining rooms at full capacity.

“The Liberals have pulled the rug out from under restaurant owners and staff across the entire territory,” Yukon Party MLA Stacey Hassard said last Friday.

“The Liberals’ contradictory policy is actually preventing restaurants from achieving or increasing capacity, making the announcement meaningless.”

The Star’s request for comment from the Yukon government was not returned by press time this afternoon.

No indication has been made as to whether bars will also be permitted at full capacity in the near future.

Tuton said that at the Casa Loma, the number of tables and chairs will be reduced to follow half-capacity rules. He conceded that ensuring patrons maintain a two-metre distance will be challenging.

“The bar business is a different business,” Tuton said.

“When you’re open during the day, it’s easy to convince people to keep the six feet apart, but as the day goes on, it’s gonna be tougher.”

Tuton said he will strive to ensure that the rules are followed.

“Nobody wants it to get worse, though it’s a fine line because the economy has to get started again,” Tuton said.

As Tuton prepares to reopen, his biggest concern is for his staff.

“I’m optimistic knowing that at least we are going to be on the road to being able to get back to operating fully again,” Tuton said.

“I’ve been at it so long, I’m not important anymore. It’s the people that work for you and have to feed their families; they’re the ones that depend on you. That’s what keeps me up at night.”

Comments (6)

Up 17 Down 5

Adam Smith on Jun 27, 2020 at 11:42 pm

Hey Gordon, you do realize that the other political parties are in line with the government as well right? Neither the Yukon Party or the NDP have come out in support of the 7 business owners bringing forward a lawsuit to hold the government accountable. They are both silent on this which is akin to consent.

Up 35 Down 36

Gordon Williamson on Jun 25, 2020 at 3:50 pm

For sure, Sandy Silver hasn't the faintest idea what it takes to run a business! I am so disappointed in this Government. He should take an honest look at the damage done to our Territory and reflect on what they should have done different and had some open debate in the legislature.

Up 32 Down 28

JC on Jun 25, 2020 at 11:01 am

Yukon Cornelius, remember smiley from Dawson was a teacher. They especially should stay out of politics.

Up 38 Down 3

Dave DownUnder on Jun 24, 2020 at 5:02 pm

Brew your own beer: stay home and keep off the roads.
Grow your own stone: stay home and stay safe.

Cook your own food: stay home and eat well.
Cater for this new reality or go bust.
Old buddy Norm even learned how to make pizzas at home.

Up 25 Down 4

vlad on Jun 24, 2020 at 4:59 pm

Cornelius - let's not talk about any profit. To split even seems to be a dream.

Up 46 Down 45

Yukon Cornelius on Jun 24, 2020 at 3:25 pm

Direct quote from Whitehorse Star article entitled 'Emergency Extended, But Other Rules Loosened' dated June 15, 2020:

"Bars can begin reopening at 50 per cent capacity this Friday, after their operational plan has been approved by the government. Groups of 10 or more are not allowed to sit together at bars once they are open. Live music and recreation areas such as dart boards, pool tables, dance floors and video games are not allowed in bars during this phase."

What's the point of telling bar owners that they can reopen if they're only going to lose money doing so? Much like the restaurant business, the bar business requires a certain number of people each spending a certain amount of money in order for the establishment to turn a profit each night. How pray-tell does Sandy Silver expect bar owners to turn a profit when these establishments are not allowed to entice people into the bars with live music, darts, pool or dancing and they're only permitted to host half of their normal capacity?

Yukoners may as well stay home and drink - which is exactly what most people will do. Congratulations Sandy. Once again you've proven that you don't have a clue how businesses operate.

SOURCE: www.whitehorsestar.com/News/emergency-extended-but-other-rules-loosened

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