Charlie Don’t Surf on the White Rock waterfront was gearing up to hire 20-30 summer workers before the COVID-19 pandemic forced restaurants across B.C. to close their doors for all but take-out and delivery service. (Alex Browne photo)

White Rock restaurateurs finding light during ‘dark time’ of COVID-19 pandemic

Social relationships, routine help alleviate stress in difficult times: expert

Staff at at least one waterfront business are predicting dire effects along White Rock’s Marine Drive strip should the COVID-19 pandemic not be reined in within the coming weeks.

“We’re going to see a lot of restaurants down there not survive this,” said Kyle Grant, a manager at Charlie Don’t Surf.

“A lot of staff just came from winter and we were gearing up to hire 20 to 30 people in the next two weeks. Right now, we should be busy and bumping.

“If it goes longer than a month, there’ll be quite a few restaurants that don’t reopen.”

Grant said the decision to close Charlie’s for the duration of the pandemic was made at 7 p.m. last Thursday (March 19) – two days after B.C.’s provincial health officer ordered all pubs and bars, along with restaurants that could not practise social distancing, to close, and a day before a full shutdown in the sector of everything but takeout and delivery services was enacted.

READ MORE: B.C.’s top doctor orders bars, some restaurants to close over COVID-19

READ MORE: COVID-19: B.C.’s top doctor bans dine-in guests at restaurants across province

Ahead of the move to simply shutter Charlie’s – they found zero demand for takeout, Grant said – the restaurant limited tables to meet the two-metre requirement between diners; and enacted protocols including bleaching door handles every 15 minutes.

Layoffs started on March 13, he said, and now impact about 75 at Charlie’s alone.

“Some staff cried, it was not fun,” said Grant, of delivering the news March 19. “And we’re seeing that across the beach.”

Efforts to ease the strain have included staying in touch, he said. As well, extra food from the restaurant was divvied up for care packages that were delivered to the laid-off staff on Sunday.

Grant said the effects of the pandemic are being seen in more than just people’s pockets. Some of the Charlie’s staff were already struggling with issues including anxiety ahead of the pandemic, and current conditions – including trying to make hefty rent payments while off the job – aren’t helping, he said.

He said other restaurant owners on the beach – he named Primo’s and Uli’s among them – are also networking with staff and each other. Group chats have been created, daily phone calls are being made, and more. He hopes a trend of sharing photos that began when people started creating meals with the care-package items continues, along with the hope that comes of knowing the restaurant will one day reopen.

“We’re all a big family down there, but this is a hard one,” he said. “It’s just a dark time down there.

“It’s been both a scary, sobering moment and a nice reminder that we’re all in it together.”

Maintaining connections as much as possible is critical during times like these, according to SFU psychology professor Lara Aknin.

“The number-one predictor of happiness around the globe is social relationships,” Aknin said Friday, noting she was speaking on International Day of Happiness.

At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge the uncertainty.

“I think it’s wise to kind of recognize this is kind of a discombobulating and chaotic time, and to kind of acknowledge that if you do feel uncertain and anxious, that’s a very reasonable response.”

Tips Aknin offered to help maintain a feeling of connection include chatting to a neighbour from across the road, connecting with friends via FaceTime or Skype and calling or texting family members to check in.

“In (times of) anxiety, reaching out to the people we care about does a lot,” she said.

Getting outside can also help alleviate stress, as can exercise and maintaining a routine. Just the latter on its own “can bring a little order to chaos,” she said.

Fraser Health resources also suggest sticking to normal activities as much as possible, including a regular meal and sleep schedule. As well, schedule exposure to COVID-19 news, so that it’s not a constant stream, and get facts from “the right sources,” such as B.C. Centre for Disease Control and the Public Health Agency of Canada, online resources state.

Tackling chores or tasks such as yard work that have been put on the back burner can be another useful distraction, as can keeping perspective.

“Focus on your part for fighting the spread (e.g. proper hand washing, coughing and sneezing into your elbow, staying home when you’re not well and practicing social distancing) and trust that the public health and government officials are working hard on their parts,” the resources state.



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

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