Vancouver-based pub group restructuring due to pandemic challenges

A company behind some popular restaurants and pubs in Vancouver has filed for creditor protection. Sarah Chew speaks to industry insiders about the struggles many B.C. restaurants are facing.

The operator of iconic Vancouver establishments like The Lamplighter, Three Brits, and Cinema – among others in Toronto – is seeking protection from its creditors.

The Donnelly Group cites the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19 for the move.

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Although they are calling it a strategic move. In a statement, The Donnelly Group says they hope to secure a “stronger and more resilient future” following the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Despite the often startling perception of this filing, it’s very much a constructive versus destructive financial tool that will first bring added stability, and then growth to our businesses operating in the embattled hospitality industry,” said founder and CEO Jeff Donnelly.

“This will be a survivor’s tale, one that we’re saddened to recognize cannot be told for many of our hospitality peers due to the tragic effects of the pandemic.”

The group says it intends to operate its businesses as normal and without interruption while the restructuring process plays out over the next couple of months.

Ian Tostenson, President and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, says other small independent restaurants are losing steam after going through the pandemic as well.

“Those owners have no labour, so they’re having to close certain hours and certain days, so they’re running at 80 per cent capacity – they’re exhausted,” he said.

“[There are] 3,000 restaurants in B.C. that could be in trouble, one way or another, we’re seeing bankruptcies are up over 100 per cent over the last year… just over 50 per cent of restaurants are not making any money in the marketplace.” 

Other establishments under The Donnelly Group through Freehouse Collective include; Sing Sing on Main Street; Yaletown’s Hundy, Stock Room, and Isabelle’s; Gastown’s Clough Club; the financial district’s Brass Fish, and Butcher & Bullock; and Ballyhoo, located in the theatre district.

With files from Sarah Chew

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