Meet a restaurant owner who’s ‘bloody mad’ at the NDP

byRick BellMore from Rick Bell

The man does not mince words.

“I’m pissed off. I’m mad. I’m bloody mad,” he says.

“How do you play the game when they keep changing the rules? We did everything right.”

In this province and in this country where far too few people stand up and are counted, Scott Winograd stands up and is counted.

The restaurant where he is the general manager and part owner is closing its doors the last Sunday in January and he is angry as hell.

Unlike so many others among us, who grumble a good game but are way too scaredy cat to go public, Scott does not fear coming forward and speaking truth to power.

In this case, the power of the Notley NDP government.

That is why his story has taken on a life of its own ever since smacking us upside the head in the Monday edition of the Sun.

Scott runs the Bears Den, a 150-seat eatery and bar, spitting distance from the city limits on the way to Cochrane.

It’s one cool place, all wood and carvings of bears and moose and geese and elk on the wall. It took six months of sanding just to get the wood in the joint perfect before staining it.

A dance floor, live music, jazz no less, and a bar where you’d love to stay for more than just the one.

Rustic, old-school class with the feel of a ski lodge and prices not out of line with other places in town.

Scott was brought in to breathe new life into the Bears Den. The restaurant lost money in the ugly year of 2016. Last year, the revenues were up but still they lost money. This year, he projected revenues going up further and they’d still be lucky to break even.

Why? Expenses ate up all their gains and more.

The minimum wage hike, the carbon tax passed on by suppliers, having to pay on stat holidays even when the workers don’t work the holidays, most of which fall on Mondays when the Bears Den isn’t open.

“It’s not the economy,” says Scott.

“It’s the regulations coming out of a government that has no idea of how business works. Not a clue.

“The NDP say they want to take care of the workers. Their policies are cutting workers.”

Scott says the serving staff who scored those minimum wage hikes could also take home $300 in tips on a busy night while he couldn’t afford a raise for the dishwasher or the line cook who don’t get those same extra dollars.

Charge more to make up for the added costs imposed by government and he says you price yourself out of the market.

Some defenders of the NDP may well paint Scott as some hoity-toity bigshot who just doesn’t want to cough up the cash to his supposedly oppressed employees.

“I’m not a fat cat driving a Bentley,” says Scott, adding he puts in 60 hours a week and his wife is a social worker.

“This is a restaurant. I don’t have 17 of these. They’re not spread across North America. We have one.”

Scott points out if he and the other owners had eateries elsewhere “we could absorb the costs where the government is being stupid.”

Like here.

In the first days of January the owners made the decision. They wouldn’t keep sinking money into what could be a losing battle. They were tired of death by a thousand cuts.

“We’re not a charity. It’s only going to get worse. There is no light at the end of the tunnel,” says Scott, expecting the Notley NDP to push through more regulations before next year’s provincial election.

Scott says he was “fighting my ass off” to make the restaurant money. He points “to the personalities of our amazing staff.”

“We hit it out of the park. I’m so proud of everyone involved. But our biggest competitor is our own government who is putting us out of business.”

Last Friday, the Bears Den staff got their notice, including Al, the long-time bartender who is 63 and has two bad hips.

Customers are upset. The owners will likely sell or lease sometime after the day the music dies and the bartender announces last call.

The NDP says the closing is unfortunate, but hell, Canadans still go to restaurants and the numbers working in food services and hotel business are up a few percentage points from the downturn.

“Thanks for the sympathy,” says Scott, with wear-it-on-your-sleeve sarcasm.

“They don’t give a damn.”

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