By Prapti Bamaniya
Several restaurants near Ryerson’s campus have been forced to close amidst the ongoing restrictions surrounding public health guidelines and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since students have been away from campus for a year now. Small businesses around the university have lost many of their primary consumers, according to Philip Walsh, an entrepreneurship and strategy professor at Ryerson.
Walsh said businesses on campus are reliant on the student market, so when “students aren’t there…[restaurants] are not going to be in a position to replicate the profitability that they normally would have.”
Scaddabush on Yonge Street, Fran’s Restaurant on Front Street and the Pickle Barrel on Yonge and Dundas streets were among the many food joints forced to close their doors.
Walsh said employees and owners of small businesses in Toronto who rely on tips from in-person services have been hit harder by the pandemic and its restrictions compared to other areas, since these businesses also have to keep up with steep housing costs.
“If they don’t have the income to survive or enough income to support their housing to support the basic necessities of life…how are they going to survive given the high costs of housing in GTA?” he added.
Second-year history student Gurleen Sidhu said it’s not that students don’t want to be on campus, they just don’t have the option to be. “I feel bad for all of the restaurants that have closed, they probably have so much to worry about.”
“How are they going to survive given the high costs of housing in GTA?”
The Scaddabush at Yonge and Gerrard streets was forced to cease operations early this February as a result of increased pandemic regulation. Restaurants, like Scaddabush, that focus more on their sit-down and service aspects have suffered more through the pandemic than those who are just operating as takeaways, said Walsh.
The corporation that owns Scaddabush, SIR Royalty Income Fund, announced its closure along with other locations of its partner restaurants, including Reds Wine Tavern on Adelaide and Bay streets, and Duke’s Refresher + Bar on Yonge and Gerrard streets.
This specific Scaddabush was Caitlin Dundee’s favourite of all the restaurant’s locations. After completing the last exam of her undergraduate social work degree in 2019, she walked over to Scaddabush with a friend and celebrated their accomplishments.
“The friend I was with was the first friend I had ever made at Ryerson. We started together, and finished our degree together and celebrated at Scaddabush,” she said.
Scaddabush has another location downtown on Front Street and numerous other locations throughout the GTA.
Fran’s Restaurant, a diner serving all-day breakfast on Front Street, had to close its doors permanently on Dec. 31, 2020 because of uncooperative landlords and COVID-19 protocol. In the process of negotiating a new lease pre-COVID-19, the landlord made the restaurant operate on a month-to-month basis, which became unmanageable during the pandemic.
Although the Fran’s chain has been alive since 1940, this location was one of the youngest branches, owned by the Kim family for 10 years. They said goodbye to customers through a post on Instagram.
“Fran’s took steps and invested in resources to keep both our customers and our employees safe. Despite our best efforts, we, alongside many small businesses, were forced to close,” the restaurant said in the post.
Many Ryerson students have a long relationship with Fran’s, including memories of late nights and eating comfort food during busy days.
“The stores might be closed, but the memories are still with me”
Second-year history student Gurleen Sidhu said she had a tradition of visiting the restaurant after long nights at local clubs.
Sidhu said only Fran’s could satisfy her craving for a chocolate milkshake, which she almost always had by the end of the night. Even if it was raining or snowing, Sidhu was willing to pay extra delivery charges to her Ryerson dorm for her chocolate milkshake.
“It was like a comfort place for me that was always there…plus, who wouldn’t enjoy breakfast at night?” Sidhu said.
Although the restaurant is closed, some of its meals have had a lasting impact on some Ryerson students; Fran’s unique grilled cheese sandwich lives on in Dundee’s home.
“Before a concert, my dad and I would absolutely have to go to Fran’s, and I always made sure that I got the grilled cheese with apples on it…soon enough I couldn’t get enough of them and started adding apples to them in my own at home,” said Dundee.
Although the Front Street location has closed, two Fran’s locations, one on College Street and one on Victoria Street, remain open.
The Pickle Barrel on Yonge and Dundas is yet another restaurant forced to pull the plug after pandemic protocols. Though this particular location has closed, other locations across the province are still operating.
This Pickle Barrel was third-year graphic communications management student Ashan Mahendran’s last visit to a restaurant downtown before the pandemic forced the school to shut down. After spending the whole day on New Year’s Eve 2019 with his friend in the city, they crashed at Pickle Barrel to have dinner before heading over to Nathan Phillips Square.
“It’s been a real shame that the pandemic caused the closure of so many small businesses that were close to [our] hearts,” said Sidhu. “The stores might be closed, but the memories are still with me.”