WARMINGTON: Empty bar a pub owner’s worst nightmare once again

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While it might be great for somebody, alone in a pub is not exactly Regan Irvine’s idea of a dream come true.

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In good times or bad, he can’t make any money if he’s the only person on the premises. Yet there he was, Wednesday, alone in his pub once again.

“This is the third (calendar) year this has happened,” said the owner and operator of The Irv Gastro Pub on Carlton St. in Cabbagetown. “It’s like deja vu.”

Wednesday was Day 1 of the latest Ontario pandemic lockdown. He’s lived through this horror movie before.

“It’s not like our fixed costs have been shut down,” said Irvine. “We have to pay all our same bills with next to no income.”

Food costs have gone up, too, and so have wages. One thing, however, that has not been introduced so far is taxpayer support.

“We will need some help,” said Irvine. “It has to come. We are not going to be able to keep staff paid based on takeout sales.”

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As of now, the word is small operations such as The Irv have to close to inside guests for at least 21 days. With no other previous time frame honoured, The Irv is bracing for the worst.

“We are going to do what we can to think outside the box like we have done the other times and try to make sure we maintain our high quality of food. But when you have two years of lockdowns or partial lockdowns, it’s going to take its toll.”

So what is the solution to all of this? I thought Irvine had the best suggestion I have heard so far.

“They say we are all in this together,” he said. “I say it’s time for the premier and the ministers, mayor and prime minister and the public health doctors to start living on the money that we have to live on. If we get the basic help, after taxes that works out to about $260 a week. Maybe the people making these decisions can try living on that amount as we are all in on this together.”

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It is a good point that the public sector has not missed a paycheque during this nightmare while small businesses have been ravaged.

Regan Irvine, owner of The Irv Gastro Pub, says it’s time government officials share the burden of the pandemic. JACK BOLAND/TORONTO SUN
Regan Irvine, owner of The Irv Gastro Pub, says it’s time government officials share the burden of the pandemic. JACK BOLAND/TORONTO SUN

“This whole pandemic has been put on the backs of the small businesses to shoulder,” said Irvine. “It’s time to share some of this burden.”

Of course, this won’t happen but you can’t blame the gang at The Irv for being a tad skeptical.

No one has become more cynical about the current state of the pandemic response than me. I have written about more businesses being messed with than I ever care to count. It breaks my heart. With a straight face, leaders told the public vaccines would lead to the end of restrictions and the return to normal. The new normal is not one thing promised can be taken to the bank.

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Officials continue to push vaccines as the answer to getting out of this.

“We have followed all of the rules they have put down and done every single thing that has been asked of us,” said Irvine.  

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  2. Pat Quinn Jr., owner of P.J. O'Brien Irish pub and Restaurant on Colborne St., is gearing up to re-open this week after a long hiatus due to the pandemic.

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  3. Cabbagetown pub owner Regan Irvine holds a painting of his father at his closed bar, The Irv, on Nov. 23, 2020.

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Vaccine passports, becoming fully vaccinated, masks, social distancing, contract tracing and even hiring someone to make sure every person complies.

“We are right back to where we were in the beginning.”

In fact, Irvine is back to being the only person in his pub again.

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