Storm hits bottom line hard for businesses in Surrey

BC Hydro’s single largest power outage event in its history came
at a big cost to many in Surrey

Donegal’s Irish House owner Daniel Cook says his business took a big hit during the power outage.

SURREY — The barren dairy and deli shelves at the Save-On Foods in Clayton Heights Monday afternoon seemed straight out of an apocalypse movie.

Empty black shelves lined the perimeter of the grocery store, lacking the salads, sandwiches, milk and eggs.

Not one item sat in the freezer.

It’s clear that trees weren’t the only casualty of the wind storm that blasted through the Lower Mainland on Saturday, causing power outages to hundreds of thousands of homes.

Several Surrey businesses were hit hard.

Donegal’s Irish House on 96th Avenue near Scott Road lost an estimated $15,000 due to the outage.

Owner Daniel Cook said the loss is significant for the pub.

“We’re looking at about $12,000 lost in net sales, then about $3,000 for food. That’s a big chunk, especially this time of year. Sales drop down, fixed costs don’t, so your margins are very slim right now. There’s not a lot of room to absorb a hit like this.”

The venue is big on live music, he explained, and they had the Sally & the Melo Hearts booked for Saturday night.

Plus, there were three big parties booked to come in.

“It was going to be a really big weekend for us. This was the weekend for us to catch up a little bit, but that dissipated pretty fast.”

Donegal’s stayed open for a few hours after losing power Saturday, then closed and put staff on standby.

Initially, power was estimated to return by noon Sunday, so staff were called in to get ready.

But it didn’t return.

“Again, we held it open for a couple hours, served some drinks by candlelight and just waited. By 2 o’clock, we closed again.”

Power finally returned Sunday around 8 p.m. or so, but Cook decided not to open up because the fridge temperature had dropped too low.

In fact, he kept his doors closed Monday due to food concerns.

“It was too much of a risk to try to use any of the food. So Monday, we spent the day cleaning out the coolers and opened up Tuesday for the first time.”

Cook said the other hard thing to swallow is many of his competitors had power.

“The other side of Scott Road was pretty much untouched. All the competitor pubs were all powered up,” he said.

Asked if he’d do anything different next time, he said there isn’t a lot more he could have done.

“A small generator unit could have powered our coolers, that would be something to avoid that loss of goods. A good unit certainly would have paid for itself this weekend,” he said.

But he wasn’t sure if that investment would pay off.

“If we lived in an area where this was more frequent, an investment like a generator would make sense.”

‘ONLY SO MUCH YOU CAN DO’

Another hard-hit area was Hillcrest Village Shopping Centre in Cloverdale.

Mall manager Jen Temple couldn’t even put into words how frantic her weekend was.

Between constantly trying to get updates from BC Hydro, keeping in contact with tenants and calling in more security, Temple said she barely slept all weekend.

She was helping Save-On get things back on the shelves and business up and running Monday as power was restored.

“The food store tenants are the hardest hit,” she said. “But then the small guys like the nail place, Nails R Us, they had clients booked all day Saturday and Sunday, manicures, pedicures, they lost all that business.

“It’s devastating for some of the small ones.”

The mall itself is going to have to pay some big bills as a result of the outage.

“The biggest problem is we have no power, so at shopping centres it’s pitch black. We have no alarm systems. So what do you do? We’ve had security around the clock. And with no notice, so the bill is going to be through the roof.

“It’s crisis management at this point,” she said Monday. “How do we mitigate the losses and get everybody open as quickly and effectively as we can. The food sources, that’s tough, they’ve lost product and two days of work. The weekend is the busiest time up in Clayton because everybody works.

“It’s working families, so that’s when they do their shopping, that’s when they go out for dinner, that’s when they get their nails done.”

She said residents certainly learned they need to be more prepared for an emergency, but it’s tougher for businesses to do so.

“A lot of the businesses have emergency plans in place, especially the big stores, but you can’t prepare for this unless you have your own generators, and there’s a huge cost to that.

“There’s only so much you can do.”

NIGHT MARKET CALLS IT A SEASON

The Surrey Night Market was another casualty of the storm.

“Tents were ripped apart, our fence came down, lights, everything, everything was destroyed,” said market director Gary Grewal. “There was massive destruction.”

Staff were at the market site at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds Monday to begin clean up, and Grewal guessed the work would take a few days.

While damage estimates are nowhere near done, Grewal is sure it will be far more than $100,000.

“It will probably be way more than that. There’s nothing left.”

The market was scheduled to run to Sept. 20 this year, Grewal explained.

“It’s a big setback,” he said of the weekend’s devastation, especially considering the market is only in its second year of operation.

While done for 2015, the market isn’t done for good, he stressed. A shorter season is planned for next year from June to mid-August.

BUSINESSES, BE PREPARED

Surrey this year launched a business emergency preparedness program to help businesses consider the types of risks they face and develop a plan to address them.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, about 25 per cent of businesses forced to close for 24 hours or more by a disaster will never reopen.

Risks to consider are loss of services such as water and gas, building damage, inventory or equipment damage, loss of files and critical data, employee or customer injury and disruption to suppliers/service providers, according to the city’s toolkit.

Businesses are encouraged to consider backing up data and documentation, site safety, emergency plans and recovery plans.

Insurance is a key thing to consider, according to the city, as businesses are not eligible for government disaster financial assistance if insurance was available for that loss.

View the entire toolkit online at Surrey.ca.

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

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