Getting vaccinated is the most important thing everyone can do right now. It’s fast and easy. Vaccination is extremely important for those of us who have underlying medical conditions or are vulnerable members of our community. But most of all, it’s going to help all of us return to normal. Those are the reasons why I chose to be vaccinated.
My family has been in the restaurant business for 50 years. I am the third generation at the helm of The East India Company. We, as a family, chose to close our Winnipeg location on March 16, 2020, earlier than provincial rules. By virtue of owning two restaurant locations in Ottawa, we saw what was coming in Quebec and Ontario and we wanted to be proactive here in Winnipeg. As is the principle within our own family, the health and safety of our guests and employees is always paramount, so we felt closing the restaurant was the safest thing to do.
Since then, takeout and delivery have sustained the restaurant. We’re fortunate to still be in business and that we didn’t have to lay off a single full-time, permanent staff member. Many of our staff have been with us for decades and we see them as more than just employees; they are family.
Normally, I travel to visit my two brothers, who manage our Ottawa locations, once a month. However, I haven’t been able to do that since the onset of the pandemic. It’s hard to express how difficult it is to be separated from loved ones—I haven’t been able to see my nieces, nephews, sisters-in-law and brothers in person for over a year. But I know many of us understand and share this feeling.
In my personal life, I sit on 11 boards. They’ve all gone virtual. I can honestly say that after the pandemic, I’ll be the first person to uninstall Zoom from my computer! I miss the human connection that comes with in-person meetings.
Our Canadian culture is not defined by takeout and watching Netflix. Our culture is defined by our historical sites, and places where we meet and gather—such as special events at the RBC Convention Centre, or at the new Qaumajuq art gallery, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights—or even a restaurant like mine, where we showcase 400-year-old pieces of art. These are places where people can meet, build relationships and grow.
Restaurants are places where people celebrate, make dates, see friends and family. They are places where people go when they reach a crossroads or mark an accomplishment. I miss those moments—the laughter from a table of friends, the excitement of a child opening a gift at a birthday party, the sweetness between a couple celebrating their anniversary—from our restaurant when we were able to share and celebrate special occasions with our visitors.
If you’re a little hesitant about getting vaccinated, by all means, ask questions. Do the research that you need to do. The vast majority of science points to a healthy, safe vaccination process. I believe vaccination will lead us back to normal life, a life where we celebrate together again.
After COVID, I’m looking forward to shaking somebody’s hand again. It’s so simple but important. And when things get back to normal, I’m looking forward to enjoying a night out with my family at a restaurant, either mine or another—we have great restaurants in Manitoba, and we can’t wait to serve you again in person!