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Hard-hit hospitality industry in Toronto hopes New Year ushers in stable recovery –


Restaurants and entertainment venues are gearing up for a New Year’s Eve bash that they hope will signal the end of almost three years of uncertainty and instability.

Saturday marks the first end-of-year celebration without widespread COVID-19 restrictions

CBC News


wine pairings

Those in the hard-hit hospitality industry are hoping 2023 will usher in a year full of more recovery. (Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Restaurants and entertainment venues are gearing up for a New Year’s Eve bash that they hope will signal the end of almost three years of uncertainty and instability.

At The Fifth Social Club in downtown Toronto, staff are preparing for a Saturday night full of live entertainment, dancing and Prosecco toasts to not only mark the coming new year, but make up for celebrations lost in 2020 and 2021 to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really wanted to let people get those back and celebrate them in one night,” said Vince Farago, the general manager of the club.

“Hopefully, it’s just smooth sailing from here.”

The last day of 2022 marks the first end-of-year holiday many are able to celebrate without mandatory COVID-19 restrictions. While it’s been long-time coming for those in the industry like Farago, many are still stuck recovering from the lasting impacts of the pandemic.

“It’s not easy to rebuild from the ground up again,” said Farago.

“People are also scared and timid about COVID, so they might not come out like they used to … so it’s just adjusting to how the world’s changed,” Farago said.

A man is pictured looking to his right, with various bottles and beverages in the background.

Vince Farago, general manager of The Fifth Social Club in Toronto, says tickets are sold out to their New Year’s Eve bash. (Spencer Gallichan-Lowe/CBC)

Still, New Year celebrations are usually a busy time for restaurants, with many choosing to order in. Restaurants anticipate this and spend time on things like crafting signature menus, said president and chief executive officer of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, Tony Elenis.

“Many restaurants are anticipated to be busy and it’s so good to see the vibrancy come back,” said  Elenis.

Elenis says the industry hasn’t fully recovered from the lockdowns and travel restrictions that marked earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent inflationary pressures have only made things harder, he says, with many breaking even or operating at a loss.

“Even though restaurant prices have gone up, they still do not mitigate the higher expenses restaurants are continuing to pay,” said Elenis.

“We thank all the Torontonians, Ontarians, for going out and celebrating in the restaurants that provide a fun experience that you cannot get anywhere else.”

Survival of the industry

Director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Frederic Dimanche says New Year’s Eve celebrations not only give businesses a chance to make a name for themselves to new customers, it also gives them a cushion to fall on in the coming winter months when business slows.

“People are not going out as much in January and February — they recover from the holidays, maybe they tightened their budget a little bit,” said Dimanche.

With all the added pressures on the overall industry in recent years, he says it’s important employers maintain staff morale and reward them for their hard work.

“We know how difficult it’s been to to hire and to keep restaurant staff. So I think restaurant owners, restaurant managers really have to make an effort to to share some of the revenues that they may get,” said Dimanche.

Farago says it’s been a tough few years full of balancing staffing levels and shutting down and re-opening multiple locations at the same time. He hopes customers know staff are ready to “shake the rust off” and help everyone have a good time. 

“Everybody’s working hard and doing their best and like I said, 2023 should be a good year.”

With files from Tyler Cheese and Grégory Wilson