LONDON, ONT. -- Local businessman Mike Smith, says he is heartbroken after making the difficult choice to lay off some staff ahead of the holiday season.

“Employees are like family…we’ve been in business for 37 years…it’s just before Christmas and people have lost their jobs and it breaks your heart.”

Smith who owns four local eateries in the downtown core including, Joe Kool’s, made recent cuts to staff after the region entered into the red control zone restrictions.

Under red zone measures: restaurants, bars and event spaces can have a maximum of  ten people indoors with no dancing, singing or live music.

“We had nine people for lunch and that was 90 per cent of our capacity, but you can go to a big-box-store and there are three-four hundred people. I think a lot of small business wonder about the inconsistency for big business as opposed to small business.”

Smith says that his facility and many of his friends who own local businesses in the region have been following protocols since the beginning of the pandemic, but adds that businesses will have troubling surviving without more customers.

“We take every name and phone number, we’ve done the spacing and social distancing, the precautions you don’t even have at home… This time of year we know people will be getting together…if they can’t do it here they will do it at home where there are less restrictions.”

Smith says he employed over 200 people before the pandemic, last week those numbers dropped to 85 employees and says the layoffs could grow even further after red-zone restrictions came into place.

Smith says the financial costs of running a business and lack of profit are making it impossible to support all staff financially.

The way that Smith’s business has stood the test of the pandemic is because of the support from the community.

“I can’t believe how many people have come in to support us. People that are ordering take out and delivery… you get the line, ‘we’re here to help you,’ and it makes you feel a sense of community.”

Smith adds that small business are usually locally owned, so he encourages people to shop locally ahead of the holiday season and long afterwards.

Another restaurant that has also been hit by pandemic restrictions is Ale House London.

The restaurant and bar located on Dundas Street, has had two different signs with explicit language posted on the front of its doors, blasting the red-zone restrictions.

On Monday, a sign on the face of Ale House London said, “The elitist commie evil empire says to people max 10 inside merry freaking xmas commie.”

Pictures of the controversial sign circulated on social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Redditt.

One user commented on a Reddit thread, “I’ll be sure to avoid it in the future.” On Tuesday the sign was changed once again. This time it says,

“To all the socialist marxist little sheep that have blessed me with their comments my word 2 u Baaah!!!”

A longtime customer at Ale House, Brandy Lacrois, says the signage “attracts people.”

“No it (sign) doesn’t deter me….the bartenders and servers are all nice I have nothing bad to say…they are very due diligent….they wear masks and socially distance,’ says Lacrois.

CTV News reached out to Ale House owner and are awaiting a response.