Happy Anniversary

We took a break from the blog in August and had hopes of an exciting return to business in September. Unfortunately, our hopes were once again dashed as we will be remaining closed for a while longer. This is doubly sad, as September 2020 was supposed to be our 10th anniversary.

McMaster map by local artist Matt Jelly

Running a hostel in a city that had not had one, and indeed doesn’t often seem to understand what they are, has been a challenge. Despite many conversations with local city staff and politicians over the years, the usual response is often something like “so it’s a rooming house?” Many can’t understand travel accommodations that are not a standard hotel.

A few people say things like “like the ones they have in Europe?” and our answer is – yes! Very much like that! Like the ones that they have all over the world. Back in the mists of history, hostels were often used by pilgrims on their way to holy sites, and were run by monks. In some places and times, hostel accommodation was free, and payment was given in labour rather than money. In the modern era, in Canada, payment must necessarily be in money and we’re not allowed to put guests to work, beyond cleaning up after themselves!

The “temporary” sign we put up in April

Unfortunately, a hostel is exactly the wrong sort of business to be running at present. The very essence of a hostel stay is the shared space – sitting with people from all over the world, trying their food, learning a few words of their language, finding out that snoring is a universal part of human experience. Over the last several months, we have considered ways that we might re-open – limited capacity, hand-sanitizing stations, compulsory masks.

We have opted to stay shut for several reasons. Two of them are the most important though – firstly, Canada has closed borders and is not issuing travel visas for non-essential travel. Simply, no one is coming here. Not even for school, as colleges have taken their lessons virtual for the 2020-21 year. Secondly, it’s not worth the risk. The money we might make, and the people we might host are not enough in the face of keeping ourselves, our family and our neighbours safe. We could do our best, but we cannot guarantee that COVID-19 would not spread through our hostel.

Our 5th anniversary cake

So, despite how much it hurts, we are staying closed for now. We really wanted to have a big party, even bigger than the one we had for our 5th anniversary! Local bakery Cake and Loaf made an amazing cake, and dozens of people came to celebrate with us. It’s no mean feat for a small business to last 10 years, and we are proud of what we have achieved. We have no plans to close down forever.

If we are lucky, by next September we will be able to throw a belated 10th anniversary party, a we ain’t dead celebration, with people from all over the world, and our friends, family and neighbours. We will be able to celebrate, also, that we have come through this awful time and, hopefully, we will all be stronger for it.

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