Downtown Kitchener bar decides not to reopen
Published Friday, August 21, 2020 8:37PM EDT
KITCHENER -- Some local businesses have been able to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic, while others say it’s just too much.
The Rhapsody Barrel Bar in downtown Kitchener is just the latest venue to announce that’s it’s closing for good.
The live music venue first opened its doors four years ago, as a place where performers could showcase their unique talents.
The Rhapsody Barrel Bar closed in March, as many businesses did at the start of the pandemic.
It never reopened.
Tammy Lawrence, the bar’s CEO, says the decision to close wasn’t easy.
“It’s not a secret, we’ve had a lot of obstables to overcome in the [past few] years,” she says.
But the pandemic has been a challenge they just couldn’t overcome.
“Being down this long, it just eats up any cash flow that might ever exist if you have that, or you’re lucky to have that.”
Lawrence doesn’t think that it would possible to operate in a reduced capacity.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect even having 50 people inside is going to cover operational costs.”
She hopes that other downtown businesses can survive during these uncertain times.
“Being in the restaurant and bar industry is not for the faint of heart,” says Linda Jutzi.
Jutzi, the executive director the Downtown Kitchener BIA, says many business owners have been able to adjust to the new demands, by adding patios and pushing online sales. However limits on capacity could lead to more closures, especially as the weather gets cooler.
“Covering rent, employee costs, operational costs, food costs, when you’re generating 50% of your expected revenue.”
Jutzi says restaurants, bars and coffee shops are at a higher risk of closing.
At the East African Cafe in downtown Kitchener, profits have dropped 70% since the start of the pandemic.
“They’re ordering some food, and that’s why we’re existing,” says owner Afework Girmayie. “The payment for rent is 25%. It’s low, so we try to manage.”
Other businesses, like the comic and collectible shop Looking for Heroes, is feel a little more secure.
“You’re happy making ends meet,” says manager Jacob Brenner. “You’re happy to pay the bills, but you always want to be doing better.”
However he does say the cancellation of many summer events in downtown Kitchener has impacted foot traffic.
“They see new shops and come in,” Brenner says. “Everybody is losing on that, whether you’re a restaurant, whether you’re even a tattoo shop or whatever down here.”
In an effort to support local businesses, the Kitchener BIA is offering live music throughout the downtown core.