Back to Business is a business news series by NNSL Media. It focuses on local businesses in Yellowknife NT.
The Covid-19 pandemic took away almost all of the tourist guests of Bayside Bed & Breakfast, but it also helped Yellowknifers eat cake.
Bayside has only had a handful of bookings since March, some of which included people self-isolating before starting new jobs or attending funerals in the NWT.
The staycation windfall that some tourism operators experienced has mostly passed by the Old Town bed and breakfast.
“In a normal summer (our) five rooms would be full all the time,” said Debbie Doody who owns the business with her husband John. “Especially March, it’s a very, very busy month. And September’s a very, very busy month. We have nothing. We’ve lost thousands and thousands of dollars.”
Before Covid, Bayside would have well over 60 nights from the spring until September with all five rooms booked. Since March there have been only 15 nights when all rooms were booked.
Bayside’s downstairs eatery the Dancing Moose Café has experienced a moderate degree of business, though not to the level it would in a normal year.
“We’re still somewhat busy, mostly on the weekends. And during the week, it’s not quite as busy,” Debbie said.
To make situation facing the Doodys more complex, they have been trying to sell the businesses for about a year, after operating it for more than 12 years.
“We have a lot of people looking, a lot of interested people, but we’re still waiting,” Debbie said.
They’re asking $1.5 million for the building.
But 2020 has not been without its benefits for the Doodys. Out of the café came what Debbie said was the only significant income of the last nine months: specialty cake sales.
In April, when the restaurant was still closed due to the pandemic lockdown, she began baking black forest, apple, cheese cakes and other varieties. She posted images of her culinary creations on the Dancing Moose Café Facebook page.
“It worked quite dramatically. The cakes are about $45 or $50 each. In one week (in April), I made about $5,000. So it was really good during that lockdown time,” she said. “Mother’s Day was pretty insane. Every weekend (has) huge cake sales. It’s really been almost like a new business side for us.”
For Canada Day she made some unique cakes and for Thanksgiving she baked pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin pie, which sold very well. She plans to roll out some special cakes for Christmas as well.
As unexpected and positive as their cake venture has been, Debbie said it still “doesn’t put too much bread and butter on the table” as the core of the business is the bed and breakfast. During the lockdown months of March to June, the cake sales and assistance from some government Covid programs, like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the mortgage deferral kept the business afloat.
When the Dancing Moose reopened in June at the start of phase two of Emerging Wisely, the rise in restaurant revenue helped the business to avoid depending on cake sales and government assistance.
Currently, Debbie expects restaurant returns and catering to tide them over during the coming months.
“Catering gets busier in December with office meetings and Christmas parties,” she said.
While they laid off their full-time housekeeper due to the lack of guests, the Doodys still keep their rooms in top shape, just in case people come by.
It’s not known when guests might come back, but the Doodys are still trying to focus on the future.
“We’re just going to carry on as we have been, and hope for the best,” Debbie said.