A collage of signs greeting customers on Oak Bay Avenue clockwise from top left, Timeless Toys, Walk in Comfort, Shabby Rabbit Clothing, Ivy’s Books, and Monterey Barber. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Oak Bay businesses cope as best they can during COVID-19 crisis

Restaurants move to take-out only, or close in Estevan Village and the Avenue

Oak Bay Avenue is popular as a quiet place to enjoy coffee and a book and while you can still get a coffee and a book, the experience has changed.

If you’re headed to the Avenue or Estevan Village you might want to call ahead.

As of March 20, Hide and Seek coffee is serving streetside with a table of food inside the front window.

It follows the order Dr. Bonnie Henry made later that day.

“From today, my order is that restaurants must move to take out or delivery model only as a way to best protect us and ensure that we can maintain those distances.”

Same goes at Ivy’s Books. Pass by between the shortened opening hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and you’ll see staff working inside as the store is taking orders by phone and online.

The Oaks restaurant on The Avenue is now closed.

READ ALSO: Many businesses can carry on during COVID-19 , B.C. top doctor says

READ ALSO: COVID-19 precautions not optional, B.C. Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

“Sales are way down but we are still getting sales from people who are calling in and ordering what we have in stock, and then come pick it up,” said Megan Scott, owner of 19 years and the fourth owner since Ivy Mickelson started it in 1964. “People like to read books in times like this.”

With the Greater Victoria Public Library branches closed, Scott has heard from a few customers that they are stocking up in case they are stuck at home even longer.

“We have a great neighborhood for book buying and reading,” Scott said.

Fairway and Pharmasave are staples during a pandemic and are running as per usual but customers wishing to visit boutiques such as Shabby Rabbit Clothing, have to do so online or by appointment. Timeless Toys is open but is limiting the number of patrons.

The Oaks, Penny Farthing, Vis à Vis and Ottavios are all closed for the time being. Oak Bay Marina’s restaurant is also closed though their coffee shop is offering an abbreviated menu for takeaway.

Monterey Barber is down to 90 minutes per day.

Life in South Oak Bay is even quieter as Demitasse cafe and garden centre, Thorn and Thistle flower shop and Libra Coffee are all closed.

There are some signs of life in Estevan Village.

Pure Vanilla and Willows Galley continue to serve take out only.

At some restaurants, though, it’s survival mode. Brian Bobiak, part of owner of the Village restaurants, has closed the Estevan location and three others. The Village is running take-out only from their Cook Street Village location.

Ruth and Dean is running in Estevan though owners Susannah Bryan and Daniela Lucchiti had to lay off 12 employees. They are now a skeleton crew of four.

Bryan says they’re extremely busy but are still running at a loss as they’ve taken the opportunity to double down and deliver meals to those in need.

“We are accepting donations and we put that into a food delivery program,” Bryan said. “We are losing money but I think this will be easier than closing and trying to re-open.”

Through Peers advocate society, Ruth and Dean are delivering meals to people in the sex work industry and had also delivered food to others in need, including some vulnerable older adults they found through the church.

To keep things light, the cake making specialists are offering the Pandemic Panic, a four-layer chocolate and fudge cake with vanilla swiss meringue for $24.95.

READ ALSO: Costco bans store returns of hoarded items such as toilet paper, sanitizer

On Wednesday the B.C. Economic Development Association reported that 90 per cent of B.C. businesses that responded to their COVID-19 survey were impacted negatively and 83 per cent of those have seen a drop in revenue and business flow.

Half of the respondents said they’ll be temporarily shutting down with most (64 per cent) saying they’ll be reducing staff, about 25 per cent saying it will be all staff.

Ninety-one per cent anticipate a further drop in business while 73 per cent of businesses expect their revenues will drop at least 50 per cent.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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