April 10, 2020

Ian McMullan had enough food prepped to run his restaurant for four or five days, but no customers to serve.

His open sign was off. The plugs were tapped. The chairs were on the tables.

The part-owner of McMullan’s Pub on Highland Road was forced to close Tuesday after a state of emergency was declared over the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving him with some big decisions.

Not wanting to throw out food, he got creative.

“We thought, ‘If it’s going to go into the garbage, we might as well find something positive to do with it,'” he said in an interview.

After eight hours of frantic organization and pounding dough, by late Tuesday afternoon more than 50 pizzas were in the hands of local police, firefighters and staff at the nearby St. Mary’s hospital.

Some pizzas were picked up, while others were delivered by McMullan’s staff who volunteered for the job.

A Facebook post about their efforts went viral.

A Facebook post of Ian McMullan making pizza.
A Facebook post showing Ian McMullan, left, making pizzas with a staff member for local nurses on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

And on Thursday, they were at it again.

“We didn’t get through everything, so I called out to staff to see who wanted to help,” said McMullan.

This time, the food — wraps and pizzas — went to grocery store workers at a nearby Sobey’s and Food Basics, paramedics, St. John’s Kitchen, a long-term care facility and staff at St. Mary’s General Hospital,

Thursday’s meals would have equated to over $1,000 in regular sales for McMullan.

Although he was happy to make the donations, he said the closure hasn’t been easy on him and his staff. Tuesday happened to be St. Patrick’s Day, usually their busiest day of the year.

“We had already cancelled our St. Patrick’s Day party, and we we’re going to reduce our seating capacity by 40 per cent for safety reasons,” he said, adding that he was relieved when the government limited restaurants to take out and delivery only.

Many of the staff rely on gratuities and tips for a portion of their income, so McMullan is planning to create some other opportunities for staff to pick up shifts. For example, he is going to have a “deep cleaning” day that anyone can sign up for.

“It’s tough and it weighs on me,” he said. “I have a responsibility as their employer to keep things smooth for them financially.”

McMullan offered to pay the handful of staff that volunteered on Thursday, but they declined.

“We know the business is taking a hit,” said Sierra Weiss, an employee.

“I just wanted to come out and do something good — sometimes when you feel out of control in a situation like this being a little productive makes you feel better.”

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