Two local businesses are closing temporarily to protect the health and safety of staff and patrons.
Small Talk Winery and Fox Den Yoga often work together. Melina Morsch holds her goat yoga classes at the winery, combining them with tastings at the winery.
The yoga classes are held outdoors in the good weather, but at this time would be moving indoors, and with most of her clientele coming from Toronto and the GTA, Peel and the Hamilton area, lockdown and red zones, she has decided to cancel all her bookings for December and January to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“I’m refunding thousands of dollars,” says Morsch, whose goat yoga classes are often booked for bachelorette and other private parties and business team-building exercises.
“People are still calling to book classes. They’re coming from Toronto, and when they come, they also go to Queen Street. In all good conscience I can’t do that. We’re at the point where we have to protect each other.”
Morsch says she might have 120 people come to town for her goat yoga classes on a weekend, “and when they’re done they go downtown, get ice cream, and visit our lovely shops and restaurants.”
She says she doesn’t want to “demonize” those from other, more restrictive zones, but her clientele is mostly young, in their 20s and 30s, and “we’re not going to stay in our caution zone if we don’t do something to prevent a bump in tourism from red zones.”
Some in that age group consider themselves “invincible,” she says, “and when they come here, they’re already not listening to the government and not taking the government seriously on these pandemic restrictions.” When they come to Niagara, many “are not interested in following the rules here,” she says.
“We’ve all jumped through hoops to keep our clientele safe. We’ve followed all the guidelines, but when people come here, they don’t expect to be policed.”
Closing down, and losing her only income, was not an easy decision, and will affect her children’s Christmas, but she says she sat down and explained to them, “this is how I protect them, their grandparents and the community.”
Hank Hunse, owner of the Irvine Road winery, has closed his tastings and retail store, going back to pickup and delivery only. He says he’s seen his staff stressed by trying to enforce physical distancing rules, and with the increase in cases in other areas, and the number of visitors from those areas who come to the winery, he doesn’t want to risk the safety of his staff or the future of production.
“I don’t want to put our staff or local customers in a position of risk. We have two staff members with asthma, and a lot of us have older parents and relatives. It’s just not worth putting them at risk for a glass of wine,” he says.
It’s also a business decision, he says, explaining he’s looked at the risk/benefit, and it makes good business sense to protect the winery.
Hunse says his sales are now more cider than wine — they shift back and forth — and this is the time of year the winery is in full cider production.
“If we have COVID coming through the front door, it will affect my production. It would probably shut us down. That’s what I’m trying to avoid.”
He isn’t prepared to risk a COVID outbreak shutting down production, and affecting his LCBO sales of cider, he explains, which bring in more revenue than tastings.
“I would rather appeal to locals to buy their wine directly from wineries,” with free delivery, or pickup at the door.
While his decision is different from other wineries, “my situation is different. It’s based on a risk/benefit analysis for us, and it’s better for us to be closed right now,” he says.
“I don’t want to close, but since everything moved inside, we’ve had a problem with non-compliance, and it’s hard to argue with customers.”
As soon as the COVID case numbers drop, he says, “we’ll open again.”