Local restaurants are hoping food events will brighten up an especially slow winter.
Paul MacKinnon, CEO of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, said that while 2020 was hard on the restaurant business, thanks to government programming, very few restaurants closed.
“We’ve still had more new businesses open in 2020 then close in 2020. So, we take that as a bit of good news,” he said in an interview.
Important time of year
Despite this, MacKinnon said this time of year is going to be critical. Due to increased COVID-19 restrictions in late November, restaurants were unable to open over Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
“The second wave happening early November, that really put a damper on the holiday season, which, of course, is a really important time for restaurants and all businesses,” he said.
“A lot of restaurants weren’t able to build up those cash reserves over Christmas.”
MacKinnon said this makes events like Dine Around even more important. Food events can attract people to go to and order from local restaurants in the city, and can inject some new life into a stagnant time in a restaurant’s life.
Dine Around is running through February, and restaurants have created fixed menus for different price ranges, from $10-$50.
Sean Murphy is the president of the Canadian Progress Club Halifax, an organization that supports those with special needs, and is putting on Crave Days.
Running Jan. 18-30, customers buy from a menu of assorted restaurants and a portion of the profits go to the Canadian Progress Club.
Billy MacDonald, general manager at Pickford & Black, said this year events like Dine Around and Crave Days are “100 per cent” more important than in previous years.
“December is a big month for restaurants. We’ve missed that. And we’re definitely trying to make the most of January and February, which is typically the slowest months,” said MacDonald.
“These events are where we can get more traffic through the doors during the off-season.”
He is hoping that participating in these events will bring people into restaurants, but also to “bring back some sense of normalcy.”
“There all these great restaurant events that typically happen in Halifax,” he said. “So many of the bigger ones couldn’t happen due to COVID … we’re excited to be a part of it.”
Steve MacDonald, general manager at Gahan House, said supporting charities through events like Dine Around are “always important,” but he also hopes to bring some comfort to Haligonians by participating in events like this.
He hopes they will help customers “realize that things are still going to be OK.”
A reminder to shop local
Murphy said Crave was originally about “celebrating the fact that we are producing some great food, some great beverages, that never really were an option 10 years ago.”
Crave used to operate as a party event, where restaurants would bring samples for exposure and to contribute to the cause. This year, Murphy said restaurants are able to use Crave Days to attract more customers, which supports them and the Canadian Progress Club Halifax.
“This year, it’s sort of a reminder to everyone that we can’t take it for granted, that every business is going through a tough time,” he said.
He said it’s also a reminder to shop local.
“Whether it’s food and drink, whether it’s retail, or whatever, we need to shop locally,” he said. Or, “a lot of this stuff will disappear.”
About the author
Natalie MacMillan is from Toronto, Ontario, and works out of Halifax.