HALIFAX -- It is a critical time for small businesses in the Maritimes, with many relying heavily on revenue brought in around the holidays.

With a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the Halifax area, many small business owners and operators are watching, waiting and worried about what it will mean for their bottom lines.

It wasn’t business as usual on Monday at Café Lara in Halifax’s north end.

Typically open seven days a week, the café owner decided to close its doors on Monday, but still brought in staff for necessary cleaning and preparing for the rest of the week.

“We’re maintaining the same standards we had before,” says owner Lara Cusson. “Reduced seating, we have a separate entrance and exit, we have hand sanitizer at the entrance, Plexiglas at the ordering area, and masks are mandatory.”

Small businesses across the Maritimes are taking the necessary steps to keep their staff and customers safe, while remaining open at a critical time.

Store owner Shannon MacGregor says business had been great until a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in the area.

“We’re just starting to talk now about opening up for appointment shopping. As of now we’re still open for our regular hours, but I think we’ll find this week we’ll probably make that change,” says MacGregor.

There is one benefit of having gone through the first wave of COVID-19, and that is the ability to quickly adapt to the ever-changing provincial restrictions.

“In New Brunswick, with the code oranges (in Moncton and Saint John), and the changes in Halifax, we’ve really seen sales plummet,” says Luc Erjavec, the Atlantic vice-president of Restaurants Canada. “Restaurants are moving to order-in, curbside pickup, and take-out, because restaurants are just so important to every community in Atlantic Canada.”

Erjavec says he would like to see the rules around the federal government’s financial assistance packages be relaxed. Currently, they’re only accessible if there is an official COVID-19 lockdown.

“I would argue what we have happening now hurts as much as if they actually shut us down,” explains Erjavec.

Lara Cusson says small business owners feel they are taking all the right steps to limit the spread of COVID-19, and now they’re asking the province to step up and do the same.

“That would be ensuring that travellers are heavily monitored and tested. That is the root of the problem, not small businesses,” says Cusson.

If the second wave of COVID-19 continues into December, the lucrative holiday season could be lost, which some small businesses say could be too big of a blow for them to recover from.

However, there is some optimism that Maritimers have come together to buy local over the past few months, which could help many small businesses stay afloat, at a time that is anything but business as usual.