COLUMN: Last call at All Seasons, hospitality hurting amidst perfect storm

Darren Davidson has the latest on Nelson’s business community

Ben Andrews holds a pair of FireVines’ seasonally ideal sippers. Since 2017, FireVines has been doing great business with bars, restaurants and resorts across the province and beyond. Now, you can find the local brand’s hot apple cider or mulled wine at your local liquor, beer or wine store, or from the FireVines site, firevines.com. Photo: Darren Davidson

Ben Andrews holds a pair of FireVines’ seasonally ideal sippers. Since 2017, FireVines has been doing great business with bars, restaurants and resorts across the province and beyond. Now, you can find the local brand’s hot apple cider or mulled wine at your local liquor, beer or wine store, or from the FireVines site, firevines.com. Photo: Darren Davidson

By Darren Davidson

There’s been a passing of torch at one of the city’s quietly legendary hospitality haunts.

After 13 years, All Seasons Cafe owner Paul Archambault has sold the city’s notoriously charming Herridge Lane restaurant.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Archambault said Sunday, after his last night at the cafe’s helm. “Nelson is such a great town.”

Paul, his wife Julia and their kids Avery and Ernie — both of whom were regular staffers at the All Seasons from a young age — moved here from California and purchased the place in 2008 from founders John Langille and Tasane Scanlon.

Under Langille and Scanlon, the neighbourhood bistro became a can’t-miss dining destination for visitors and a regular stop for locals who came to love the Seasons, thanks to an award-winning wine list, superlative West Coast fare and even famous faces. Along with the odd Hollywood luminary or international adventure athlete, past Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and current PM Justin ate there one night, not long after their son and brother Michel passed away in an avalanche in Kokanee Glacier Park in 1998.

Since then, for the Archambaults, there’ve been many a good time.

“We’ve hosted lots of big parties, weddings, special events and quite a few blow outs,” laughs Paul.

“We’ve gone through some crazy times too. The recession, new liquor laws, tax laws, the personal ups and downs, and of course this year.”

Paul, Avery and Ernie lost Julia 10 years ago to cancer.

“Complete strangers came in to offer help” many times though that heart-breaking stretch, Paul recounts.

“I was blown away. People say Nelson is a special place … it is indeed a special place.”

That’s the same vibe the All Seasons’ new owners have felt, for some time.

Kristian Camero, Jessica Wood and Steve Barton will be closing the cafe until March 1 to make way for a brand new venue that will lean more towards the high end cocktail and charcuterie offerings famous in their last hometown — Seattle. The trio have a great backstory, and plans for the new place sound bang-on. We’ll have more on their vision in next month’s Buzz.

Worth noting though that like the Archambaults, who took over a restaurant in the midst of 2008/09’s brutal recession, Kristian, Jessica and Steve are jumping into things during an equally daunting time — a move that reflects increasing hope and belief that there’s a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

Sincere good luck to everyone in their new chapters.

On to the bigger food and beverage landscape.

Archambault was quick to praise federal government assistance through the pandemic. Ottawa’s efforts have kept many small businesses like his afloat he says.

Despite the help and sky-rocketing deficit, these are particularly scary times for the hospitality sector.

Your favourite coffee shop, restaurant or pub is having a very rough go right now. The same goes for the accommodation sector.

Last week, members of the local food and beverage industry shared their state-of-affairs in a well attended Zoom check-in with the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce. The line up included owners from Jackson’s Hole, Kootenay Tamil Kitchen, Marzano/The Library/Mike’s Place, John Ward Coffee, Louie’s/Empire/Uptown Bar and Grill, Cantina/Yum Son, Broken Hill and Finley’s/Sage.

In a nutshell: traffic is way down, and costs — particularly insurance and in some cases rents or leases — are way, way up. It’s a perfect storm.

There is in fact a nation-wide lobbying effort a foot — savehospitality.ca.

In addition to the fact B.C. diners and drinkers are leery to step out on the town, and essentially barely allowed, legally, insurance companies are hiking rates to unprecedented levels due to increasing liability concerns.

In October, The Financial Post reported that “Canadian hospitality businesses, already reeling from the downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, are facing yet another existential threat as insurance companies spike premiums or exit the space, citing losses and the sector’s risks.”

“Even before COVID-19, insurers globally were scaling back from riskier businesses to improve performance,” the Post said. “The pandemic’s profit hits have accelerated the trend and led underwriters to exit from, or raise premiums in, select categories.”

It’s an alarming issue. Restaurants are Canada’s fourth largest employer, representing 1.3 million jobs or seven per cent of Canada’s total workforce.

Over 40,000 food and beverage workers have been laid off.

“The business is high-labour, low-profit business,” says Toronto restauranteur John Sinopoli, one of SaveHospitality.ca’s co-founders. “To generate $1 million in sales, restaurants require an average of 14.9 workers. This compares to 1.2 workers for gas stations, 4.3 workers for grocery stores, and 6.9 workers for clothing retail stores.”

On to other business news…

If there was ever a time for a quick nip in the mid-winter chill, why not, well, right darn now?

Since 2017, Ben and Leanna Andrews and their business FireVines have been doing great business with a heap of bars and restaurants across the B.C. You may have already enjoyed some of their Cauldron Mulled Wine or Bugaboo Hot Apple Cider at places like Whitewater, Red Mountain, SilverStar, Sun Peaks, Cypress, Big White, Panorama or Kicking Horse.

Now, the Andrews are looking to sell direct to consumers, either through your local liquor, beer or wine store, or from the FireVines site, firevines.com.

The Andrews have a partnership with another successful Kootenay beverage provisioner — Creston’s Skimmerhorn Wine.

“We also work with curling clubs, hockey arenas, golf clubs, heli/cat operations, hotels, casinos, boat cruises, breweries,” says Ben. “Any place that you may feel a chill. FireVines wants to help keep you warm.”

It’s great stuff — just heat it up and get out there.

That’s it for this month — send any Business Buzz tips or comments to ddavidson@sbdemail.com. Stay safe folks!

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