Toronto businesses prepare for little to no business with COVID-19 modified TIFF – Toronto

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TORONTO – When the first few weeks of September roll around, almost every square inch of Yvonne Yang’s Pistil Flowers boutiques are typically covered by commissions from the Toronto International Film Festival.Hotels want fresh flowers to welcome high profile clients; production companies and sponsors love to send congratulatory flowers to stars of big movies; and event planners and restaurants need a touch of nature to brighten up their spaces for all who flock to the city.

“September is usually a busy month because everyone’s back to work and things are going, and then the TIFF hits the mark and there are usually a lot of last-minute orders,” Yang said.

“Usually you have to make it work.”

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Yang doesn’t expect that this year. TIFF has narrowed its list of regular movies from over 200 to around 50, and while it will feature in-person screenings and drive-ins, most of the action will be live as Hollywood stays home and COVID -19 is still hiding.

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This means there are no red carpets or crowds packing King Street West, which makes a year even more difficult for hotels, restaurants, party venues, caterers, limousine services, entertainment companies and more.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says only 26 percent of small businesses make normal sales, and depending on how the recovery from the pandemic plays out, as many as 218,000 or 19 percent of small businesses across the country could close. .

Pistil Flowers survived thanks to online orders, but Yang noticed that people had backed down.

“Not having the typical wedding season, not having the corporate event season, not having TIFF is a huge blow to our income,” she said.

“Our high seasons have been cut in half at least.”

A 2013 study by TIFF and research firm TNS Canada Ltd. said the celebration of the film brought in at least $ 189 million in annual economic activity for businesses in the city like Yang’s and the Soho Hotel and Residences, just steps from the TIFF Bell Lightbox and Princess. of Wales Theater.

“It’s the busiest time of the year,” said Managing Director David Kelley.

“It’s when you can count on your average rate to almost double and because people come in for a minimum of five days – it’s a solid business. Some people even stay all the time, the 10 or 11 days… Obviously, that will not happen this year.

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The hotel spent much of the past year on a multi-million dollar renovation that refreshed its 89 rooms, pool, fitness center, and hallways.

Kelley had considered capitalizing on the renovations during TIFF, but now the rooms are empty and “everything is 30% of what it once was.”

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Ink Entertainment King Charles Khabouth also laments a TIFF like no other.

While Khabouth will host TIFF events at its CityView Drive-In at the foot of Polson Street, its dozens of clubs, restaurants, event spaces and its luxury Bisha hotel will hardly be inundated with their usual excitement.

The venues are usually a magnet for celebrities, popping parties and paparazzi crowds in September, but now Khabouth says, “TIFF is like a distant memory. There is nothing. ”

“It’s like a trampoline that launches us like a rocket in the season. And this year – nothing, ”he said.

He’s once had to shut down a place because of a rent dispute with a landlord and get inventive turning his Cabana Poolbar into a huge socially remote restaurant, but he’s worried about small businesses, which rely on the warmer months and the festival to transport them. throughout the year.

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“I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but if I can’t do it, no one can,” he says.

Equally concerned as Khabouth is Dan Gunam, who runs the Calii Love fast food spot and the Love Child Social House club.

When the pandemic began to ravage Canada in March, it saw sales plummet. Businesses are now starting to recover, but a COVID-era TIFF isn’t making it any easier.

The festival usually generates a lot of business for Gunam because Love Child Social House puts on glitzy parties and Calii Love is often home to a celebrity photography studio and salon that attracted George Clooney and Nicole Kidman.

“For 10 days we have a lot of parties and this year sucks,” Gunam said. “It’s a pretty big drop.”

Its rooms will also run without the screams of the celebrities who support business all year round.

One year, for example, Hugh Jackman quoted Calii Love on Twitter, when a barista handed him a latte topped with a foam portrait of the star during TIFF, leading fans to the scene long after he left.

Gunam has his fingers crossed that TIFF will revert to its old state next year – a hope some are already making plans.

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Kelley at Soho says he’s looking to best reach loyal customers in the months to come to next year, as he refuses to believe the festival will be largely digital for a long time.

“It just won’t happen,” he says. “People want to see movies on the screens. They want to see the celebrities and the different speeches and… all the things about the movies that people love. “

© 2020 The Canadian Press



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