COVID-19’s community impact: Brew Wizards prepare for battle

Kyle Kornic, co-owner of Brew Wizards Board Game Cafe, sits in front of some of the many board games available for use at the cafe. Photo credit: Brew Wizards

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles chronicling the effects of COVID-19 on businesses and organizations in Oshawa.

Dungeons and Dragons, or DND, is a fantasy role-playing game narrated by a designated Dungeon Master. Together, you and your friends tell a story, guiding your heroes on quests for treasures, battles with foes, daring rescues and courtly intrigue.

Like a cruel twist from an experienced Dungeon Master, the COVID-19 pandemic has sent restaurant wizards like Kyle Kornic into fight or flight as they adjust what once was their normal day-to-day operations into a constant battle of good versus evil.

“First thing we did for the lockdown, I guess phase one it would technically be, or whatever they were calling it, we shutdown a lot,” says Kornic, owner of Brew Wizards Board Game Café located at 74 Celina St. in Oshawa.

In the early days of the lockdown Kornic was forced to limit staff, as well as close Brew Wizards’ doors for a short period, to better assess the coming storm brought forth by the pandemic.

The reopening has been gradual and things are still not quite back to normal.

To aid in the battle against COVID-19, Kornic and company reduced their seating, shortened hours of operation, cut their food menu by half, which limited the number of suppliers to rely upon, and sacrificially went from having 16 Ontario craft brews to only five beers on tap.

This reduction in suppliers has had a trickling effect on restaurant supply chain businesses.

According to Restaurants Canada, restaurants generally spend upwards of $30 billion per year on food and beverage purchases, playing a vital role in Canada’s farming and agriculture.

Entrance at Brew Wizards Board Game Cafe offers free hand sanitizer as well as a sign-in sheet required to fill out upon entry.
The entrance at Brew Wizards Board Game Cafe offers free hand sanitizer as well as a sign-in sheet required to fill out upon entry. Photo credit: Brew Wizards

As the COVID-19 battle continues, the weapons of choice provided at Brew Wizards Board Game Café come in the form of a sign-in station upon entry, hand sanitizers at every table, bleach solution for table wipes after every use, socially-distanced table spacing, as well as table limits of four-to-six people and a 72-hour board game quarantine system.

Board games at Brew Wizards are quarantined for 72 hours to ensure they are safe the next time they are used.
Board games at Brew Wizards are quarantined for 72 hours to ensure they are safe the next time they are used. Photo credit: Brew Wizards

In DND, and in life, it’s often the company you keep that can help you in the most troubling of times.

“A lot of our regulars we’ve become actual friends with,” says Kornic. “Our little community, they’ve been super, super supportive. Our regulars and stuff like that have been basically what’s been keeping us going.”

Kornic worries about what kind of impact a second wave may have, not just on him but on fellow employees at Brew Wizards.

“I think a second shutdown like we had in the spring is going to be devastating to the local business community and the small business community as well as the economy as a whole.”

However, he accepts the government’s decisions if elevated case counts lead to another shutdown.

“I understand the importance of having to do it. I just hope we do it better than we did it last time in terms of government support,” he says.

Kornic and company received a small boost from the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). However, this covers only part of employee wages and they did not qualify for Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance as they do not own the building in which they are located.

The food service industry continues to be one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic resulting in more lost jobs in the first six weeks of the lockdown than the entire Canadian economy in the 2008-2009 recession, according to Restaurants Canada.

While DND is simply a fun fantasy role playing game, the seriousness of COVID-19 and its consequences are far from fiction.

“We don’t want to be the cause for outbreak, like we don’t want somebody coming in and getting a whole bunch of people sick because we weren’t doing our due diligence,” Kornic says. “Our community’s health is far more important than us making a couple extra bucks.”

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