Holiday parties off the menu in many Yellowknife establishments

Last modified: November 26, 2020 at 8:45pm

Yellowknife’s 2020 holiday party season is shaping up to be unlike any other. Many of the city’s restaurants are hosting few, if any events.

Ed But, owner of Coyote’s Bistro and Lounge, said the restaurant usually hosts at least eight Christmas parties every year. This year they might not have any.

“The fact that people aren’t allowed to mingle, you have to sit at your table, you have to eat and then basically go… they’re not going to turn out to be much of a Christmas party,” he said. “I think we might just not be doing it, period.” 


But said while Christmas parties normally account for a quarter of the restaurant’s December sales, he’s more concerned about the health risks of Covid-19. 

“I’m one of those diabetics that if I get Covid, I die. Money is not worth my life,” he said. 

“I’m so proud of what the Northwest Territories has done so far. It seems strict and all but, you know what, at the end of the day it’s protecting our lives.” 

Steve Dinham, co-owner of the Monkey Tree Pub and Stake Restaurant, said the restaurant has been approved to host larger Christmas parties but even annual customers have concerns.

“People just don’t want to have a party without dancing,” he said, “so we have zero bookings for Christmas in the Monkey Tree.”


Stake has a handful of December bookings for between eight and 25 people, appropriately distanced.

Dinham usually starts taking bookings for holiday parties in September. In a regular year, the pub is booked every Friday and Saturday in the four weeks leading up to Christmas, with groups of around 100 people.

Dinham said there has also been less catering business than usual, which will also have a “massive impact.” 

“I’m appreciative that we’re still conducting business. I mean, something is better than nothing. But ultimately, we’re just getting by,” he said. 


Sam's Monkey Tree Pub in Yellowknife
Sam’s Monkey Tree Pub in Yellowknife. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

Mel Leonard, marketing manager at The Woodyard Brewhouse and Eatery, said while the business is interested in hosting holiday parties, it’s still figuring out the logistics during the pandemic.

“Our number-one priority since Covid started has been to be as compliant as possible,” he said.

Normally, Leonard said, The Woodyard would already have bookings for holiday parties, but there’s a lot of uncertainty this year.

“Right now there’s no active cases, and that affects things,” he said. “If there were active cases, we may change on a dime what we do.”

Yellowknife's Woodyard brewpub
Yellowknife’s Woodyard brewpub. Photo: NWT Brewing Company

The Racquet Club, a Yellowknife gym that hosts an annual Christmas party, decided to cancel this year’s event.

“By having people who aren’t regular members through our doors for a one-night-only event we put the existing people here at risk, and we aren’t willing to do that at this time,” event planning manager Meghan Newberry told Cabin Radio by email.

“We really hope that next year we can bring back the festive, packed party Yellowknife has come to know and love. Until then, our focus stays on protecting our members and helping our community where we can.”

Newberry said the Racquet Club Christmas party usually hits full capacity of 276 people with more waiting outside to get in. The gym also typically books two to three private parties every year.

Instead, this year, the gym has opted to hold 12 days of giveaways for its members. Newberry said the Racquet Club is also sponsoring three families this Christmas to account for the money normally raised for charity at the party.