An unexpected power outage on March 29 only added to the hardship
Sun Peaks’ business community is once again adjusting to a raft of new provincial restrictions implemented by the provincial health officer.
The new rules were announced on the afternoon of March 29 and took force at midnight of that day, leaving businesses scrambling to implement the changes before the final weekend of the ski season.
As part of the effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, B.C. restaurants were ordered to put an end to indoor dining (patio service is still allowed) for at least three weeks.
This resulted in a flood of reservations, but things proved especially challenging here in Sun Peaks, where intermittent power outages caused mass cancellations at some restaurants.
Kevin Tessier, owner of Voyageur Bistro, described the evening of a “horrible rollercoaster ride of emotions.”
Tessier said he had hoped to be able to operate after the power came back on after the initial power outage at around 4:30 p.m., but ultimately chose not to operate given the repeated subsequent power outages.
Tessier said his heart was warmed by the reaction of locals who had made reservations in great numbers after learning about the new provincial orders.
“When everyone heard the news, that the order was coming down, we received a number of phone calls from friends and people who were super keen to support the restaurant,” said Tessier.
Reflecting on the difficult year, Tessier said his job description has changed dramatically, as applying for the various business supports has involved a great deal of administrative work.
“Perseverance is the word that’s driven me most, being self-employed for over 20 years,” he said. “But in this case, it’s super difficult. How much more resiliency can one possess?”
Tessier, who is looking forward to the summer season, said that government support has been key to keeping the restaurant going over this difficult period. He shouted out the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association for linking him up with a consultant who helped him navigate through some of the challenges and available programs.
Overall, Tessier said that sales were down 60 to 70 per cent over previous years, as seating restrictions have dramatically reduced the restaurant’s capacity.
Tessier said Voyageur is still formulating a plan for service for the shoulder season. He said that for now, the public can order takeout from 4 p.m. every day, and the best way to get a hold of the restaurant is by calling (250) 578-5268. Someone will then text a photo of the menu.
Kelly Dye, owner of Capones Italian Kitchen and Cahilty Creek Kitchen & Taproom, said while Capones was impacted, things went well at Cahilty Creek Kitchen & Taproom, as it has access to a power generator.
All the same, it was a difficult evening.
“Between being busy [at Cahilty Creek] and everything going on down there, there was definitely a fair bit of chaos,” said Dye.
Like Voyageur, Capones saw a great deal of interest in reservations following the afternoon announcement.
“Our reservations probably quadrupled within an hour and a half, and it would have been a great night, if the power hadn’t gone out,” he said.
Dye said the plan is to close Capones for the shoulder season. Cahility Creek will remain open every day until 8 p.m., with the patio open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The orders also affect indoor group fitness activities, which have been restricted. This means that Sun Peaks Yoga, which opened in December 2019, is facing its third closure.
Kayla Alfred, owner of the studio, said this year has required a great deal of adapting, from finding the best microphone to the best software to broadcast classes to clients.
“It’s trial by fire, but because it’s our first first year, it’s not like we know any different,” she added.
Alfred said classes are available online and the studio is looking into some possible group activities that might be permitted under the new guidelines, such as mindful walks.
“We are just taking the closer opportunities to find out what else we can do and get creative,” she said.
Joel Barde is a reporter hired with funding from the Local Journalism Initiative, a federal program created to support “original civic journalism that covers the diverse needs of underserved communities across Canada.” His writing is focused on the tourism industry in the Thompson Okanagan from the resident perspective.