LONDON, ONT. -- Brad Heslop, the owner of the Early Riser Café on Wonderland Road North was ready to put in long hours when he purchased the business two and a half years ago. What he wasn’t prepared for was COVID-19.

“It's been tough, I'm pretty much a volunteer at this point,” says Heslop. “We're down about 90 percent and we're just keeping our head above water.”

During this lockdown, Brad has laid off his 7 employees and working on his own with a take-out menu. Still even though he is struggling, Brad is thinking of his staff. He’s decided all of the tips he receives goes to them.

“We've got an amazing team, “ says Heslop. “During the first lockdown, we gave all of our tips to the foodbank, but this time it was our staff who were in need.”

Pam Gibson has been a server for 15 years and now works at the Early Riser Café. She appreciates the help.

“Brad's the best, I've never worked for anybody that cares about his staff so much,” says Gibson. “It's hard, get shutdown for a long time, you never know if you're going to be working or not working.”

The Early Riser Cafe seats about 50 people indoors. Before COVID, they were busy with line-ups outside on weekends. Both are hoping for a return to those days.

Brad adds, “It's a tough industry at the best of times, so it's going to be a different landscape when this is over but I'm hoping that as many as possible can stick it out and maintain throughout this.