Coronavirus: Saskatchewan restaurant owners eyeing reopening day with caution

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WATCH: Some restaurant owners say they're eager to reopen, while others say they will keep their doors shut – May 22, 2020

Saskatchewan residents ready for a good meal and a night out may have limited options come June 8, with some restaurant owners feeling wary of the reopening date.

The third phase of the province’s reopening plan will allow restaurants and bars to operate at half capacity.

Dale Mackay, co-founder of Grassroots Restaurant Group, said that isn’t sustainable, so the group’s Saskatoon and Regina restaurants won’t open on June 8.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Gyms, restaurants set to open in Saskatchewan on June 8

“When you can only seat 50 per cent of people, that doesn’t mean 50 per cent of your costs have gone down,” MacKay told Global News.

“Unless you’ve got … a good amount of cushion in your bank account, you might be reopening just to lose more money than you’re losing being closed.”

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Lacey Sellinger, co-owner of Odla Restaurant in Saskatoon, said the province’s guideline to seat dining parties two metres apart would reduce her capacity to a mere quarter.

Sellinger said she’s not sure if Odla will reopen on the big day, but she’ll likely hold off for a week or two.

“We’re feeling excited and nervous and then just kind of at a loss, at this point, of what to do,” she said, noting she’d like to see more in-depth guidelines from the province.

“No one wants to be the first one to jump in the pool. You kind of wait for someone else to do it and then see how it goes.”

Sellinger said she wants to take all the necessary precautions, while maintaining a pleasant dining experience.

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READ MORE: Some Saskatchewan businesses wary about reopening due to coronavirus safety concerns

“It’s all about finding that balance between doing what we need to do to make people safe and making people still feel comfortable and welcome,” she said, noting masked servers, for example, could be a bit jarring for customers.

“People go out to eat and drink to get … a break from the daily stress, so we don’t want to be throwing it in their face and making them feel … more uncomfortable and more stressed based on the measures we’re taking.”

Ready, set, re-open

Black Fox Farm & Distillery in Saskatoon is gearing up to open its doors for a small number of customers on June 8.

Prior to that, they’ll run practice scenarios, moving their staff around the property in a mock reopening.

Co-owner John Cote said he’s in a good position to open, as the farmland connected to the distillery offers plenty of space for physical distancing.

“We have to have trust in our customers and they have to have trust in us,” Cote said.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan restaurants brace for hardship once dine-in service resumes

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Before the pandemic, people could come into the distillery at random. Now, they’ll have to schedule a visit, Cote said.

Staff will use portable tills, he added, so people who want to make a purchase can skip the lineup.

“What we have to offer is a nice experience for people. And I think that’s going to be really important this summer for people because they’ve been cooped up inside, they’ve been scared,” he said.

“We can kind of help them in that process of learning to socialize again in the new circumstances that we have.”

— With files from Allison Bamford

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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