Businesses forecast winter of discontent
Chamber considers Support Local initiative
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | October 5, 2017
Despite ongoing community support, the owners of Baked and Battered have decided to close their business for the winter months. As they head into their sixth year, it’s the first time they’ve had to do so because of a growing number of challenges.
“We spent a lot of time thinking about it over a period of about two months,” said Colby Marcellus, who owns the Haliburton business with Craig Gordon. “It was towards the end of the summer that we started to realize that this was the only thing that we could do.”
They will close the restaurant and café Oct. 17 and reopen March 1.
One of the main reasons for the closure is the provincial government’s decision to increase minimum wage to $14-an-hour on Jan. 1, 2018 and $15-an-hour the following January. On Sunday, minimum wage increased by 20 cents, from $11.40 per hour to $11.60.
Overall, it’s a jump of 32 per cent in less than two years.
“This just kind of hit us from left field,” said Marcellus. “We could have kept going on without something like this happening.”
Payroll is their single largest expense. They have 20 full-time employees in the summer. That number drops to nine staff in the winter, five of whom are full-time.
But it’s not just the wage hikes that make it difficult. Rising expenses include hydro, food supplies and winter maintenance.
And that’s difficult to manage when there is an 80 per cent drop in business in the winter, Marcellus estimates. In the past, they had to resort to using their lines of credit to pay the bills.
In talking to other local business owners, Marcellus said they are “scrambling to get ready.” There are others that plan to close, though he wouldn’t say who they are.
Fortunately, his staff won’t be left in the cold. McKecks Tap & Grill has offered to hire staff for that four-and-a-half month period.
“We just like to keep people employed,” said Karen Frybort, the restaurant’s general manager.
Frybort’s management team often holds its meetings at Baked and Battered.
“We support their decision,” she said. “It’s difficult for any business, particularly restaurants. You have to grow your business but pull really tight during the off-season.”
A recent analysis of Bill 148, otherwise known as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, shows if the government were to simply implement the wage increase over five years, jobs at risk would decrease by 74 per cent in the first two years. An interim report in August, also conducted by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis (CANCEA), indicated that 190 local jobs could be on the chopping block.
The Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce have called on the government to phase in the increase.
Richard Wannan, local chamber president, was aware of Baked and Battered’s decision, but didn’t know of other businesses that might be closing shop. He called it “a very unfortunate situation.”
“They’re a valuable business and a valuable member of the community,” said Wannan. “We have to all sit back and look at how we support each other.”
Should the increases go ahead as planned, the Haliburton chamber will push for a support local initiative, he said.
“The community needs to support each other should this go through. I won’t say stop shopping out of town, but reduce it and support the businesses that are here.”
The chamber has been discussing the initiative for the last month, said Wannan.
While he says the chamber supports liveable wages, they hope the government will adopt a common sense approach.
The chamber is encouraging the public to contact Premier Kathleen Wynne and share their concerns.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.